A Public Letter to Apple Inc.
Everyone knows that Apple Inc. is a leading brand in technology application, and its products have gained great popularity all over the world. In Apple’s Corporate Social Responsibility collaborative initiatives, Apple addresses issues of labor rights and claims that its hit products would never come from the exploitation of labor.
After several months into investigation, however, we found that one of your suppliers, WINTEK Corporation, has seriously violated your Supplier Code of Conduct. Apple has not yet taken any action toward rectifying this. We hope our protests will evoke your conscience and draw your attention to this labor rights issue. Apple Inc. has the obligation to ensure to its first-line workers their inalienable labor rights. We hope Apple can keep its promise of corporate social responsibility and demand that all its suppliers, including WINTEK, meet international labor standards.
Since last year, WINTEK Corporation has taken all measures to push the labor cost down. In its factories in Mainland China and Taiwan, WINTEK imposed mandatory unpaid leaves, laid off employees, cut overtime pay, and canceled special bonuses and allowance. According to labor regulations in China and in Taiwan, respectively, all labor contract changes have to be approved both by employers and employees. But WINTEK changed contracts and compensation without employee approval. WINTEK forced employees to accept those compensation and contract changes; WINTEK even laid off a large number of workers when the company still earned huge profits. This kind of large-scale layoff violates Taiwanese labor laws.
When the employees in WINTEK strove for their legal rights, WINTEK suppressed them rather than retracted its illegal orders. WINTEK sued both these employees and Wei-Li Chu, the Secretary General of National Federation of Independent Trade Unions, who supported the strikes in WINTEK. These lawsuits violated the whistleblower protection rules in the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct.
As for employee basic benefit and health issues, WINTEK also has shown very bad performance. MASSTOP in Dongguan, a subsidiary factory of WINTEK, failed to provide sanitary food to its workers. MASSTOP cut the employee food budget from 8 RMB to 4.5 RMB per person per day. According to the employees in MASSTOP, the food provided by the company was stinky and sour, and the steel plates were rusty. Moreover, on April 3, hundreds of the workers in MASSTOP were sent to the hospital because of on-site food poisoning. This is a serious violation of the dining rules in the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct. But Apple hasn’t reacted to this significant violation. Apple has the obligation to demand WINTEK to improve the health and dining situations in MASSTOP.
The labor measures taken by WINTEK, including the cut in overtime pay, were deemed illegal by the Taiwan government after an official labor inspection. MASSTOP in Donguan has ignored labor rights for a long time. MASSTOP does not provide an anonymous complaint mechanism for workers to report workplace grievances; a forum for such anonymous complaints is recognized as basic employee right in the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct. Many grievances remain unsolved; hence, 7,000 workers in MASSTOP went on a three-day large-scale strike on April 15, 2009. We have not yet seen Apple take any measures to remedy these serious conflicts and violations.
This is not the first time that Apple has been involved with violations of labor rights standards. In 2006, there was a controversy over an “iPod sweatshop” in Foxconn, and we believe that Apple understand the inside story better than us. In 2008, Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) addressed issues about underpaid overtime, work injuries, and insufficient labor insurance in the Primax factory in Dongguan, where iPhone cameras and accessories are made. Now in 2009, there is another violation case, this time involving WINTEK.
Apple may have demonstrated excellent achievements in technology innovation and application, but it has significant flaws in supplier monitoring and management. Hence, we make a four-part appeal to Apple to improve the labor conditions in your suppliers’ factories, and we hope Apple will give the public a clear promise by May 31.
1.Apple must follow the international Supplier’s Code of Conduct and demand that WINTEK restore the jobs taken from the workers who were laid off in Taiwan and China, withdraw the demonstration lawsuit, and promise no retaliation on workers.
2.Apple must follow the international Supplier Code of Conduct by demanding that WINTEK improve its working conditions immediately.
3.Apple must demand WINTEK to allow third-party labor unions or organizations to enter the factories to conduct labor inspections, reveal the inspection results to the public, and look into the responsibility. Further, Apple should review its orders with WINTEK, evaluating the supplier contract based on the inspection results and WINTEK’s improvement.
4.Apple must respect the will of the labor representatives and hold direct talks with them. The labor representatives should be chosen by WINTEK workers in Taiwan and China.