Apple Investigates Claims of High School Students Assembling Apple Watches (Illegally)

Assembly Line In China Credit: Wall Street Journal
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A bombshell report published this weekend by the Financial Times of China revealed disturbing allegations that over a hundred high school-aged students were illegally employed by Quanta Computer over the summer, where they were reportedly forced to work long hours on the Apple Watch Series 4 assembly line.

Quanta Computer is Apple’s exclusive Apple Watch and iMac manufacturing partner, headquartered in mainland China.

According to the report, which cites claims from Sacom — a prominent Hong Kong-based human rights group, the students were allegedly sent to Quanta by their teachers to fulfill ‘internships’.

“Sacom, a Hong Kong-based human rights group, alleged that Quanta Computer, a Taiwanese Apple supplier, has been illegally employing students to assemble Apple Watches in the Chinese city of Chongqing,” the publication writes, noting that it interviewed a total of 28 students for its reporting. 

“The students said they were sent to the factory by their teachers for ‘internships’, but performed the same jobs as other assembly line workers and often worked overtime and night shifts, both of which are illegal for student interns under Chinese law.”

Eleven students told the publication that their teachers said they “would not graduate on time if they did not complete the internships,” while all 28 attested to working grueling overtime and night shifts.

“We repeat the same procedure for hundreds and thousands of times every day, like a robot,” one student was quoted as saying by the Financial Times, while another speculated that there had to be “about 120 students” from their school working at the Quanta site in Chongqing.

Apple Responds

Apple has reportedly opened an investigation into the claims, and so we should get more information on what’s happening here, soon enough. 

While Apple holds its suppliers to some of the highest standards of sanitation, equality, and labor in the industry — those milestones weren’t achieved overnight. And the company has, in the past, faced its fair share of similar controversies.

Just last year a separate Apple investigation into allegations that Foxconn employed student interns through a “work experience program” revealed that while there was no evidence of forced labor, student interns working on the firm’s iPhone X production line were found to have exceeded the legal limit of 40 hours per week.

And back in January of this year, Apple supplier Catcher Technology was accused of subjecting workers to “poor and even hazardous” working conditions by a local China-based non-profit group. 

Though Apple ultimately announced, amid the controversy and after interviewing more than 150 Catcher employees, that it “found no evidence that Catcher was” violating the company’s stringent supplier standards.

And according to the company’s latest Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, which details its annual audit of supplier employment conditions worldwide, Apple documented only 44 core violations amid its internal review of 756 firms in over 30 countries.

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