When Chinese Suppliers Abuse Workers: What You Don’t Read in the Headlines (Part 5)

Please click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 in this series. This analysis references the following report: Tragedies of Globalization: The Truth Behind Electronics Sweatshops No Contracts, Excessive Overtime and Discrimination: A Report on Abuses in Ten Multinational Electronics Factories.

Not all buyer/supplier customers are "win/win" as far too many suppliers to GM found out over the years. Unfortunately not all contracts -- signed or stated -- between factory works a United Win Technology in Suzhou, China are "win/win" either. In fact, it would seem the only clear victor to emerge from this facility is their biggest customer: Apple. The compound is responsible for $204 million annually in US dollars, and stretches across an area nearly 10,000 square meters. The plant produces ITO conduction glass, the cool stuff necessary in the touch screen display of iPhones and other devices. United Win Technology also produces "other panels such as LCD, TN, STN, CSTN, and TFT" which are used across a variety of "PDAs, communication products, all types of business related machines, calculators, car audio stereos, video games, and a multitude of other products."

This particular facility is one that Spend Matters readers might be familiar with. It received "international press because of a reported 137 worker victims being exposed to the toxic gas, n-hexane" and because Apple has admitted the facility needs to be more closely and intensely monitored, according to China Labor Watch. In one case, "because of the high concentration of n-hexane on the production line of Apple touch screen phones, over 40 workers became ill and were taken to the factory clinic for treatment. They eventually returned to work, but a few extreme cases were still receiving treatment at [a] clinic."

Yet despite the well-known accident and others, the plant still "lacks an environmental health and safety committee." Still, at least everyone is going through the supposed protective motions. When workers begin work they must put on dust-proof clothing, a dust-proof mask, and gloves. That is, when they're not striking for better conditions, as workers have done in the past (which at the scale that occurred, some 2,000 workers on one occasion, is somewhat of a rarity in the area, especially considering how commercially modern the Suzhou Industrial park is relative to others areas of China where one would think such health and human safety violations would be more common because of lesser quality facilities and their distance from giant industrial centers).

Jason Busch

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