Apple Watch supplier under fire over China student labor

The US technology giant has sold tens of millions of Apple Watches — which can cost up to $1,499 — since it was launched three years ago. (AFP)
Updated 30 October 2018

Apple Watch supplier under fire over China student labor

  • Many were compelled to work in order to get their vocational degrees and had to do night shifts
  • ‘We are like robots on the production lines’

WASHINGTON: Apple is investigating a factory in southwest China after a labor rights group said the tech giant’s supplier forced student workers to work “like robots” to assemble its popular Apple Watch.
Many were compelled to work in order to get their vocational degrees and had to do night shifts, according to an investigation by Hong Kong-based NGO Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM).
SACOM interviewed 28 students at the plant in Chongqing municipality over the summer, and all of them said they had not voluntarily applied to work there, according to the report published last week.
They worked under the guise of “internships,” SACOM said, a practice rights groups say is widespread in China as manufacturers pair up with vocational schools to supply workers and fill labor shortages when they ramp up production for new models or the Christmas rush.
“Our graduation certificate will be withheld by the school if we refuse to come,” said one student majoring in e-commerce, according to SACOM.
The US titan has sold tens of millions of Apple Watches — which can cost up to $1,499 — since it was launched three years ago and chief executive Tim Cook said it was the most popular watch in the world.
Manufacturing internships are permitted under Chinese labor law in some cases, but SACOM found the work has “literally nothing to do with learning” and violated some of the country’s labor law provisions permitting intern work in factories.
“We are like robots on the production lines,” one 18-year-old student told SACOM. “We repeat the same procedure for hundreds and thousands of times every day, like a robot.”
Others said they were put on the night shift working from 8 p.m. to 8 am with minimal breaks, according to SACOM.
The Chongqing factory is operated by Quanta Computer, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, and also produces for other brands. Quanta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But Apple spokeswoman Wei Gu said: “We are urgently investigating the report that student interns added in September are working overtime and night shifts.”
Wei noted Quanta Chongqing was a new Apple supplier and had been audited three times between March and June without finding student interns.
Student workers told SACOM student labor was widespread at the factory.
Assembly lines that repieced together Apple Watches that had failed a quality check were almost entirely made up of student workers, one intern told SACOM.
“The factory would not be able to operate without student workers,” a student told SACOM.
The NGO demanded Apple investigate and bring the labor practices in line with the firm’s own policies and those of the local and central Chinese government.


Lebanon plans to charge for WhatsApp calls -minister

Updated 38 min 59 sec ago

Lebanon plans to charge for WhatsApp calls -minister

  • Jamal al-Jarrah said that cabinet had agreed a charge of 20 cents per day for calls used by applications including Whatsapp, Facebook calls and FaceTime
  • The fee could potentially bring in up to $250 million in annual revenues from the country's estimated 3.5 million VoIP users

BEIRUT: Lebanon's cabinet has agreed to impose a fee on calls over WhatsApp and other similar applications, as part of efforts to raise revenues in the country's 2020 draft budget, a minister said on Thursday.
Lebanon has one of the world's highest debt burdens, low growth and crumbling infrastructure and is facing strains in its financial system from a slowdown in capital inflows. The government has declared a state of "economic emergency" and promised steps to ward off a crisis.
Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah said on Thursday that cabinet had agreed a charge of 20 cents per day for calls via voice over internet protocol (VoIP), used by applications including Facebook-owned Whatsapp, Facebook calls and FaceTime.
The fee could potentially bring in up to $250 million in annual revenues from the country's estimated 3.5 million VoIP users.
The country has only two service providers, both state-owned, and some of the most costly mobile rates in the region.
Lebanese TV channels cited Telecoms Minister Mohamed Choucair as saying the fee would "not be applied without something in return" which he would announce next week.
Finance Mininster Ali Hassan Khalil said last month there were no new taxes or fees in the draft 2020 budget he sent to cabinet.
Lebanon is under pressure to approve the 2020 budget to unlock some $11 billion pledged at a donor conference last year, conditional on fiscal and other reforms.
Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has said the government would work to further reduce the 2020 budget deficit.
Foreign allies are not yet fully convinced the Lebanese government is serious about reforms, and a French envoy last month criticised the pace of work.
The government only approved the 2019 budget halfway through this year. Lebanon had until 2017 had gone 12 years without a budget.
Ahead of a cabinet session on Thursday, Jarrah said ministers would discuss a proposal to raise value-added tax by 2 percentage points in 2021 and then another 2 percentage points in 2022, until it reaches 15%.
After ministers agree the 2020 draft budget, they must send it to parliament for approval.