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.


Oman said to mull new regional airline

Updated 22 October 2019

Oman said to mull new regional airline

DUBAI: Oman is considering setting up a new regional airline that could take over domestic operations from state carrier Oman Air, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

A request for proposal was issued this month by state entity Oman Aviation Group for a feasibility study into operating the new airline, “Oman Link,” the sources said.

Setting up a new airline for domestic flights would allow Oman Air to focus on its international network where it competes with large Gulf carriers Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad Airways.

The new airline could partner with Oman Air with both carriers connecting passengers to each other but would have its own independent management, the sources said on the condition of anonymity because the details are private.

Proposals are to be submitted by Nov. 11, one of the sources said.

The new airline would use regional jets for domestic flights and potentially later to other cities in the region where there is not enough demand to fill the larger single aisle jets used by other airlines in Oman.

FASTFACT

Oman Air operates flights to four airports in the country, including the main Muscat International.

Oman Aviation Group and its unit Oman Air did not respond to separate emailed requests for comment.

Oman Air operates flights to four airports in the country, including the main Muscat International, according to its website.

The airline uses 166-seat Boeing 737 jets and 71-seat Embraer E175 aircraft on domestic and regional flights.

Both aircraft types are too costly to consistently operate domestic routes at a profit, according to industry sources.

Oman has been restructuring its aviation sector in recent years. Oman Aviation Group was formed in 2018 and includes Oman Air, Oman Airports and Oman Aviation Services.

A budget, second airline, Salam Air, was launched in 2017. It is owned by Omani government pension funds and the Muscat municipality.

Last week, Eithad and Air Arabia said they were jointly setting up a low cost carrier in Abu Dhabi.