Connect to share and comment

Apple under fire in Taiwan

Labor groups target a supplier of the U.S. computer giant.

TAIPEI — Labor rights groups are stepping up their campaign against a Taiwanese supplier for Apple Computer.

They have accused the company, flat-panel maker Wintek, of exploiting workers at its factories in Taiwan and its subsidiary's factory in China.

The groups organized a protest outside Apple's Taipei office on Thursday morning, targeting the U.S. computer giant for the first time.

They say Wintek has not fully addressed their demands after months of negotiations, so they're taking their campaign to one of its high-profile customers.

"We want to go through Apple to put pressure on Wintek," said Chu Wei-li, 30, secretary-general of the Taipei-based National Federation of Independent Trade Unions, a key organizer of the protest.

The labor groups allege that Wintek fired more than 600 workers without warning in December, slashed salaries and made employees work unpaid overtime to fill rush orders.

The rights groups further allege that a Wintek subsidiary in Dongguan, China, cut workers' salaries without negotiation, has unacceptable working conditions and illegally fired 19 workers after a strike in mid-April. (See detailed allegations here.)

Wintek denies any wrongdoing. In an e-mail, spokesperson Susie Lee said Wintek posted record net losses in 2008 due to the global downturn, and was forced to institute "cost-saving measures."

It says it gave laid-off workers compensation packages, and that all of its policies are in line with local laws and regulations, as well as its supplier "code of conduct" agreements.

"We hope ... certain persons or groups do not [make] unfounded allegations to harm Wintek's reputation and affect the normal business activities of a law-abiding company," Lee wrote. "Wintek shall take relevant necessary steps including legal action in order to protect company and stakeholders interests."

Apple's Asia spokesperson Jill Tan said in an e-mail, "Apple is committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility wherever our products are [made]," and pointed me to the firm's corporate responsibility information.

Apple conducts regular audits of suppliers to make sure they comply with Apple's code of conduct, Tan said, and "we require corrective actions when we find violations."