A little less than a week before it's supposed to be unveiled to the public, the iPhone 5C is attracting attention from human rights groups for possible labour violations. While it feels like deja vu after the many Foxconn scandals, there's an important difference this time. The factory is American-owned.
On Thursday, China Labour Watch spoke up about a number of ethical and labour violations by U.S. electronics manufacturer Jabil Circuit who is reportedly building the iPhone 5C. Among other things, the human rights group accused the company of owing workers millions in unpaid overtime wages, forcing workers to stand for 11 hours a day with only a 30 minute lunch break, and failing to provide adequate training. The list goes on: discriminating against applicants for being too old or having tattoos, forcing up eight workers to live together in a cramped dorm room and making overtime mandatory. The situation at Jabil Circuit's factories hasn't quite escalated to the level of Foxconn and its suicide pact scandal, but it's certainly not a good way to kick off a new Apple product.
It's also pretty sad that we've come to expect labour violations from the manufacturing partners that supply Apple as well as its competitors with cheap labour. You would think that the situation would improve after The New York Times summed up Apple's labour woes in frightening detail with its Pulitzer Prize-winning "iEconomy" series, but building iPhones and iPads in China sounds as miserable as ever. Apple's made an effort to address the problems through regular audits and the decision to move Mac manufacturing to the U.S. They even cut ties with a manufacturing partner after there were allegations about underage labour. But the complaints keep rolling in. This is the second situation at factories producing goods for Apple and its competitors that's been flagged in as many months.
Time will whether or not Apple will address this latest outrage. And if you think Apple moving iPhone manufacturing back to the U.S. is the answer, don't hold your breath. That's just not going to happen.
Apple issued a lengthy statement on the matter saying that they're investigating the allegations. Here's a snippet, courtesy of AllThingsD:
As part of our extensive Supplier Responsibility program, Apple has conducted 14 comprehensive audits at Jabil facilities since 2008, including three audits of Jabil Wuxi in the past 36 months. We take any concerns about our suppliers very seriously, and our team of experts is on-site at Jabil Wuxi to look into the new claims about conditions there. Jabil has a proactive auditing program of their own and they have an excellent track record of meeting Apple’s high standards.