International labour watchdog groups have said workers in Chinese plants run by Foxconn are poorly treated, and have blamed a string of apparent suicides on the conditions
The man tipped to be China’s next leader has told Apple that foreign firms should protect workers, state media said on Thursday, as the US giant fends off criticism over factory conditions in China. International labour watchdog groups have said workers in Chinese plants run by major Apple supplier Foxconn of Taiwan are poorly treated, and have blamed a string of apparent suicides on the conditions.
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, who is likely to be China’s next premier, met Tim Cook while the new Apple chief executive was visiting Beijing on Tuesday, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Li told Cook multinational companies should “pay more attention to caring for workers”, the report said.
Cook on Wednesday visited a Foxconn plant employing 120,000 people in China’s central city of Zhengzhou, where he viewed the production line, Apple said. California-based Apple is wildly popular in China, where its products such as the iPhone and iPad are coveted by wealthy consumers.
Greater China — which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan — has become Apple’s fastest growing region, and revenue from there is second only to the United States. “Tim had great meetings with Vice Premier Li and other top officials in Beijing,” Apple said in a statement provided to AFP on Thursday.
“China is very important to us and we look forward to even greater investment and growth here,” it said. The company declined to comment on the issues discussed at the meetings with officials, which included Beijing’s mayor. Apple is still grappling with a series of problems from negative publicity over its supply chain to a trademark contest.
Chinese computer firm Proview Technology (Shenzhen) claims it owns the “iPad” trademark, and has sought to block sales of the iconic tablet computer in China through lawsuits. Apple says it legally bought the rights to the trademark.
Xinhua quoted Li as saying that China would “strengthen intellectual property rights protection”, although the report did not say whether he commented directly on the trademark dispute. The Taiwan affiliate of Proview registered “iPad” as a trademark in several countries including China as early as 2000 — years before Apple began selling its product.
The US titan subsequently bought the rights for the global trademark, but Proview claims the Taiwanese affiliate had no right to sell the Chinese rights. A Chinese court is now considering an appeal by Apple after rejecting its earlier lawsuit.
1,000 strike at Apple supplier in China
About 1,000 workers at a plant in southern China that makes components for Apple and IBM went on strike this week, a rights group said, the latest in a string of labour disputes. Hundreds of police officers, some in riot gear, deployed after staff at the factory in the manufacturing hub of Shenzhen walked out on Tuesday and blocked a highway to protest long working hours, China Labour Watch said. Staff at the plant worked 100 to 120 hours of overtime a month and said they also suffered a high rate of workplace injuries, mass layoffs of older workers and frequent verbal abuse by managers, the US-based group said. The plant, which employs 3,000 people is owned by Taiwan’s Jingyuan Computer Group