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US pressure groups claim further safety and labour violations bv Apple suppliers in China

09 September 2014

A report by China Labor Watch and Green America published on September 5 claimed that Taiwan-headquartered Catcher Technology was responsible for 22 separate labour violations at its factory in Suqian in eastern China, where about 20,000 workers produce metal casings for Apple and other electronics companies.

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The alleged violations include forced, unpaid overtime, improper handling of hazardous materials and unsafe work conditions.Workers did not receive proper safety training and were exposed to toxic chemicals as they were not provided with protective equipment, the report said.

“The investigation of Catcher Technology raises serious concerns around working conditions in Apple’s second-tier supplier factories,” Todd Larsen, corporate responsibility director for Green America, said in a statement yesterday. An inspection in August found hazardous working conditions, with flammable aluminum-magnesium alloy filings scattered on the factory floor, and fire exits and windows locked.

Apple had already been working with Catcher to address concerns following routine inspections, according to Chris Gaither, a spokesman for Apple. Apple conducted a quarterly fire inspection last week and Catcher made same-day fixes to address a number of issues, he said. An annual audit in May also uncovered “some concrete areas for improvement,” and Apple worked with the supplier to develop a corrective action plan, Gaither said.

In previous reports on Apple's China-based supply chain, factories owned by Taiwan's Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry, were accused of mistreating workers, particularly after a string of employee suicides. In 2011, three people died in a combustible dust explosion at a Foxconn facility in Chengdu, China.

Factory safety has come under close scrutiny in China following an explosion that killed 75 people at an auto parts plant in the eastern province of Jiangsu last month. The blast, which also injured 185 people, occurred when a flame was lit in a room filled with metal dust at the factory, which supplied parts for General Motors and other  car makers.

After the explosion, China suspended work at more than 200 factories in Jiangsu province, home to Catcher Technology's Suqian facility, for safety checks as part of a nationwide review.

The report said that after last month's Jiangsu explosion, supervisors at Catcher had specifically mentioned the high flammability of the plant's aluminum-magnesium alloy and the need to take precautions to prevent fires.

"But, after this announcement, no new measures were taken to improve fire prevention or worker safety," the report said.

In a separate statement, Apple praised the Suqian facility for consistently exceeding international safety standards.

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