While Apple is presenting its new iPhone 4s, Foxconn workers producing Apple products in China continue to face harsh labour conditions. These are the findings of the new study “iSlave Behind the iPhone” by Hong Kong-based labour group SACOM, who investigated conditions at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant. Human rights organisations are disappointed that Apple has apparently still not learned from the critical labour rights problems, including recent suicides and a serious case of poisoning, at its suppliers in China.

 “Apple is one of the most profitable electronics companies in the world.We think that Apple should not only be concerned about profits, but also for the working conditions in its supply chain,” says Irene Schipper of makeITfair, a European coalition of non-governmental organisations.”

At the new iPhone production site in Zhengzhou in central China, which is still partly under construction, SACOM found problems similar to those at other Apple production sites in China. In particular, workers receive low wages and are the victims of frequent miscalculations in their working hours. Workers are forced to attend unpaid meetings before and after their shifts and are sometimes coerced into working overtime. Workers in the Zhengzhou metal processing department complain about headaches and skin allergies and a lack of proper protective measures and instructions. “These problems are not new in Apple’s supply chain. Apple neither strictly complies with its code of conduct nor provides remedies to the workers for violations of their rights,” says Debby Chan, SACOM researcher and author of the report “iSlave Behind the iPhone. Foxconn Workers in Central China”.

This year, makeITfair and GoodElectronics launched an international campaign entitled “Time to bite into a fair Apple”, which calls on Apple to take the lead in ensuring decent working conditions at its Chinese suppliers. makeITfair and GoodElectronics would like to see Apple improve its purchasing practices by introducing fair unit prices and well-planned lead times to allow its suppliers in China to pay their workers a living wage. Apple should facilitate communication between workers and management at its suppliers. Apple should provide consumers with information about the origin of Apple products. Moreover, Apple should engage with labour rights organisations in a structural and open manner.

Apple has not responded to these recommendations. “We are disillusioned that Apple refuses to communicate with us – except for one talk early May 2011. Thousands of consumers have joined us in our call for fair Apple products and have made it clear they expect Apple to clean up its act,” says Irene Schipper, coordinator of makeITfair.

download the report iSlave Behind the iPhone. Foxconn Workers in Central China.