By Sahid Fawaz
Workers in China have a question for one of the world's richest companies: Where is our money?
"Hundreds of workers streamed through dark streets, blocking an entrance to an Apple iPhone supplier's factory in eastern China to protest unpaid bonuses and factory reassignments, two witnesses and China Labor Watch, a New York based non-profit group, said Thursday.
The protest Wednesday night at Jabil Inc.'s Green Point factory in Wuxi city prompted Apple to launch an investigation and vow to redress the payment discrepancies. 'We are requiring Jabil to send a comprehensive employee survey to ascertain where gaps exist in payment and they must create an action plan that ensures all employees are paid for the promised bonus immediately,' Apple said Thursday in an email to China Labor Watch.
The incident highlights the complexity of overseeing global supply chains that can involve hundreds of manufacturers and subcontractors, as well as third-party labor brokers — and their subcontractors — that are tasked with recruiting workers for those factories. Companies differ in the amount of responsibility they are willing to take on. Apple stepped up oversight and disclosure following a spate of negative reports about worker suicides and injuries at suppliers.
After Tim Cook took over as chief executive, in 2011, Apple began publicly identifying top suppliers. It also publishes annual audits detailing labor and human rights performance throughout its global web of suppliers. Apple said it did comprehensive audits of 705 sites last year and documented significant improvements in compliance with its supplier code of conduct.
'About 600 workers went protesting for failing to get their bonus,' a worker who asked that only his family name, Zhang, be published for fear of retribution, said Thursday. He said that like many of his colleagues, he was promised a bonus of up to 7,000 yuan ($1,056) if he stayed for 45 days when he signed up for the job through a labor broker. 'It has already been over three months but I still haven't got the money,' he said."
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