back to article Apple v BBC: Fruity firm hits back over Panorama drama

Apple has refuted claims made by the BBC’s Panorama programme that it is not working hard enough to protect the rights of workers. The programme Apple's Broken Promises claimed that Pegatron - a contractor making the iPhone 6 - was abusing rules on working hours, keeping workers' ID cards, and using underage workers. …

  1. xyz Silver badge

    Maybe it's just me but....

    ...I don't see Apple reaching for their laywers already, so I can only presume, err... cont Page 94.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Being attacked by Panorama is like being savaged by the proverbial dead sheep.

  3. Nickic

    I think Apple's Safari coders...

    ...are probably removing the default BBC bookmark right about now.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Q: what is Apple's new motto?

    A: Sleep Different

    Q: How & where does Tim Cook sleep?

    A: Very well thank you in a big comfy bed

    If the truth hurts, it must be Apple!


    If the BBC had any more stones left, they'd investigate HTC, Google, Nokia and Crackberry as well. If Apple's setting an example, gawd forbid what these 4 are up to!!!

    1. returnmyjedi

      Can't speak for the others but Nokia always had an excellent rep in the ethical and human rights communities. Whether this has endured under Microsoft's stewardship remains to be seen.

  5. johnnymotel

    where are all those other hard hitting docs..

    you know the ones on the pedophile ring at a well known broadcaster, Rotherham, super long hours at the NHS...always so easy to point that finger and conveniently ignore the four pointing back in the other direction.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The BBC coverage is annoying. It's completely normal for people to sleep at their desks, a lot of people have a sleeping pillow for such a purpose.

    1. johnnymotel

      my tenure at ITV

      was constantly interrupted by falling asleep

    2. RainForestGuppy

      Which Apple store to you work in?

    3. NigelD

      I agree, I worked for a while in an office in Shenzhen that worked on middleware development and some people had camp beds set up at their desk over lunch time. Compared to a UK office staying at your desk over lunch was more like staying in a dormitory.

  7. Zog_but_not_the_first

    Hairy and purple shoots of recovery?

    Could the BBC actually be starting to grow them back?

  8. Tony Green

    Get it right!

    They haven't "refuted" the accusations, they've DENIED them.

    There's a big difference and if you don't know what it is (which seems to be standard for journalists) I suggest you find an old-fashioned thing called a "dictionary" and look the word up.

    1. StephenD

      Re: Get it right!

      Concise Oxford Dictionary:

      "2. to deny (a statement or accusation)".

      The COD goes on to point out that "traditionalists object to the second use, but it is now widely accepted in standard English".

      1. CABVolunteer

        Re: Get it right!

        Not in my Concise Oxford Dictionary it doesn't!

        But then being a "traditionalist" myself, I have a fifty-year-old edition........

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Get it right!

          But then being a "traditionalist" myself, I have a fifty-year-old edition........

          Gadzooks! Where, prithee, did thou procure this?

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: Get it right!

            Procurest, shirley? <g>

          2. Arctic fox

            Re: "Gadzooks!" I don't normally do the grammer nazi routine but this one............

            .............I cannot resist.

            "Where, prithee, didst thou procure this?"

            1. Bloodbeastterror

              Re: "Gadzooks!" I don't normally do the grammer nazi routine but this one............

              Upvoted for the correction, but downvoted (in principle) because I love people making corrections who themselves make mistakes - and I'm gobsmacked that nobody else has commented, since the Vulture community is usually on this sort of thing like rabid hyenas... :-)

              "Grammer"...? Jimmy Edwards would surely have you bent over a chair for that one... (for the cane... oh, er, missus, stop tittering...)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Get it right!

        Concise Oxford Dictionary?

        Na, Urban Dictionarys where its at, init:

    2. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Up

      @Tony Green - Re: Get it right!

      Hear hear!

      I was just about to post pointing out that "Rejected" and "Refuted" are NOT the same thing, but lazy journos don't seem to understand that.

    3. frank ly

      Re: Get it right!

      The use of 'refute' to _apparently_ mean 'deny' is (it seems to me) a recent change in language that has been popularised by politicians, who have been loudly 'refuting' accusations for many years. They do this so that if the accusations are proved to be true then they can always say, truthfully, that they never denied it. People have been too lazy to look the word up to establish its meaning and so this incorrect use propogates. Politicians may not be smart, but they're smarter than the average person and they're full of feral cunning.

      (A similar thing happened with the word 'obviate', where people said things like, " this new gadget obviates the need to .....". If you know what the word 'obviate' means, then you'll realise what is wrong with that.)

  9. Joe Gurman

    It's nice.... see someone holding Apple's feet to the fire, even if it's easy to take a pot shot at the biggest target around. Imagine if they'd found a large tech corporation without an activist policy to reduce and monitor labour abuses in its supply chain.

  10. Flugal

    93% compliance? Really doesn't sound very impressive.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      It looks better if you read the preceding letter in the email, which states that most people were usually working over 60 hours, and many working 70 hours a week, before Apple put pressure on the companies. So working time has gone down substantially in the last years.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Are they paid hourly?

        That's a 16% pay cut. Now remind me, how long is the line at the hiring desk?

    2. MrXavia

      it is not, they said "a million people in its supply chain, finding that 93 per cent of the instances were compliant."

      that means 7% were not compliant, which is 70,000 people were not compliant, that is a hell of a lot!

      imho, even 60hours is too long a working week for anyone doing physical labour, especially anything repetitive, like assembling phones etc...

  11. Michael 47

    In other words...

    "Apple has undertaken to enforce a 60-hour maximum working week and claims that it has tracked the weekly hours of a million people in its supply chain, finding that 93 per cent of the instances were compliant"

    Translation: "Approximately 70,000 people in our supply chain are working at least 60 hours a week to our knowledge"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In other words...

      Translation: "Approximately 930,000 people in our supply chain are working 60 hours a week or less to our knowledge."

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: In other words...

        Pff, that'll never get headlines....

  12. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Apple gets the pip

    So since the BBC has "unmasked" Apple as not an ethical employer, should we expect all the trendy BBC staff to eschew their Macs, iPads and iPhones either as a matter of corporate policy or simply as individual choices made on humanitarian grounds?

    Or is it more likely that there is a wide gap between the principles and standards promoted in an investigative entertainment programme and the reality of what should not get between right-on media luvvies and their status symbols.

    Who fancies organising a mass iBurning outside Media City? It might even make the ITV news.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Apple gets the pip

      Not an Apple fan. But presumably one of the reasons to buy pricey Cupertino merchandise is to be certain the employees are working in good conditions. And there's no one else who offers these guarantees.

      1. Bloodbeastterror

        Re: Apple gets the pip

        Seriously? You're really suggesting that all those fanbois give a rat's ass about where their iToy came from? If they were genuinely concerned about that then they would buy a Fairphone. But they don't. All that matters to them is that they have a shiny gadget to hug.

      2. DavCrav

        Re: Apple gets the pip

        "And there's no one else who offers these guarantees."

        Nobody else offers them, and Apple doesn't follow them. See article.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As someone that's been in pegatron

    Apple really are scumbags, and anyone buying their products are directly responsible for slave labour.

    Merry Xmas Apple owners.

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: As someone that's been in pegatron

      Comment posted from your FairTrade ethical PC? Oh no, it can't have been, since your comment actually exists.

      Anonymous Hypocrite

    2. P. Lee

      Re: As someone that's been in pegatron

      I seem to think QI (ok, not a great source) noted that 30% of US household appliances are made by prisoners who have no rights to reject the work.

      US Justice: It's just commerce.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    iPhones by iSlaves

    Somehow I doubt it's just Apples products being manufactured in those kind of conditions. But if contracts are specified to continually squeeze costs, do they really expect their suppliers to pay generously and act ethically?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What will Rory do now...

    ...that he will be in such hallowed company as yourselves, and be forced to extort Apple information from other sources, and left off all the invite lists? :)

    1. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: What will Rory do now...

      Get all his iStuff news from Stephen Fry, obviously. What could possibly go wrong?

    2. stucs201

      Re: What will Rory do now...

      Well his latest article is on Microsoft's skype translation thing and shows him using a Surface...

  16. adnim

    Just Apple?

    I doubt it.

    I am sure all major consumer doodad manufacturers insist, and publicly so, that the most stringent policies for employee welfare are enforced.

    It is easier for the western consumer to buy the doodad if he or she feels no furry animals were hurt in it's manufacture.

    The same company will of course also insist that the unit price of the doodad makes adherence to that policy financially impossible for the manufacturer.

    1. DiViDeD

      Re: Just Apple?

      That's the thing about corporate public statements. Generally they overuse words like 'endeavour to ensure' or 'make all reasonable attemps to . .' and so on. Anyone remember J.J. Harriman (I think!) in The Man Who Sold The Moon? He greatly admired the postal service's terms and conditions because the one thing they never promised to do was deliver a letter, any letter. Instead they promised to TRY to deliver a letter by whatever means they could (such as carrier pigeon or putting it in a bottle and floating it down the river), but that they were in no way liable if no letters ever got delivered.

      On the subject of Apple though, I think the issue is not that they are no better than their competitors when it comes to worker welfare, but that they made such a bloody song and dance about how much they cared and how they had thwarted the will of the evil factory owners, and it turns out they give no bigger a shit than all the other tech companies about how their stuff gets made so cheaply.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Just Apple?

        "they never promised to do was deliver a letter"

        ...and in the real world, british train operators, probably in line with all transport operators, pretty much only ever guarentee to sell you a ticket. Whether you ever get to your destination is another matter entirely.

        1. DiViDeD

          b@John Brown re:sell you a ticket

          Why do you think they call us 'customers' these days rather than the rather too promisory 'passengers'?

        2. dc_m

          Re: Just Apple?

          Oh, you'll get there all right. Probably by bus that you will have to wait an inordinate amount of time for!

  17. JaitcH

    Apple should pop down to Ha Noi ...

    where Samsung makes Note 4's. And now they are building a second plant.

    Vietnamese workers can strike, form unions, demonstrate and the VN Labour Code is very definitive (and superior to the US labour 'standards'). There are national pension and health plans, too.

    Come to think of it, may be the benefits are why Apple is NOT in VN!

    1. DiViDeD

      Re: Apple should pop down to Ha Noi ...

      Ah but the conditions in Vietnam, as in South Korea itself, are steeped in the filthy communist idea that a worker deserves a fair rate of pay for his labour and the even more insidious notion that, just because a person runs the factory or owns the company is no reason they should get100-200 times the shop floor rate.

      Cue the downvotes from entrepeneurs and upper managers everywhere (but mostly, I suspect, in merka)

  18. xyz Silver badge

    Samsung issue a statement...


  19. Scott Broukell

    Supply and Demand

    T'was ever thus. I would have paid more attention to this if the Beeb had taken a swipe at working conditions for a plethora of tech/gadget manufacturers. Perhaps they could have approached it from the 'Demand' and 'Desire' angle and placed more emphasis on the habits / actions of consumers in the West. The majority of what we import / consume is made under pretty awful conditions for the workers at the sharp end, be it clothing, foot wear or technology. I realize that Apple apparently make something of an ethical approach to workers conditions etc. Well, good luck with that, it isn't going to be easy. Exploitation goes all the way down the slippery slope of the supply chain. If you happen to be at the bottom of that chain you are hit hardest because you have nowhere to move.

    1. Bloodbeastterror

      Re: Supply and Demand

      Surely the point is that Apple have put themselves up as people of good will (as always, appearance before substance) and therefore they deserve to be targeted when they fail so egregiously to meet their own trumpeted standards? I agree with you and other posters that the same may happen in other manufacturers' plants, but they don't shout about how well they look after their staff.

      If you make boasts, be prepared to stand behind them and not play the usual Apple card of "We're too good to talk to you people". They had their chance to put their case on the programme, and they refused. They should suck it up and put their efforts into cleaning up their act to match their publicity machine instead of whining about how unfair the BBC is.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Supply and Demand

      If you say in effect "we have policies to ensure decent working conditions for employees in our supply chain", then it's perfectly reasonable for people to hold you to that standard and flag up if that's not happening. Apple's position in response to this programme seems to be that they know the standard isn't being met, but things would be worse if they weren't trying. Well, fair enough, but if you can't ensure they're met then don't trumpet your wonderful ethical policies, just work quietly to get there first. Other manufacturers are doubtless in the same boat, but they're not making grandiose claims and thus exposing themselves to accusations of hypocrisy.

      1. Scott Broukell

        Re: Supply and Demand

        @ Credas / @ Bloodbeastterror

        Honestly peeps I was unaware that Apple "trumpet [their] wonderful ethical policies". If they make such a 'thing' about it then yes, I agree, they should be able to publicly put that to the test. (the only Apple (Macintosh) products that I own are over 30 years old and still work as intended).

        I am just reasonably sure that almost every imported product is made at the expense of workers conditions and pay. Therefore I consume as little 'new' product as possible, make what I do have last as long as possible, recycle as much as possible and look for pre-owned alternatives to the latest shiny-shiny if indeed I really 'must' replace something and have a very, very, stern talk with myself about the merits of opening my wallet in any case. So I admit I am probably not representative of the general all-consuming populace, sadly.

  20. sleepy

    Easy target

    Apple's an easy and lazy target, because they do make some effort to be transparent. Full lists of suppliers on their web site, published standards and summaries of audits etc. But Dell, Lenovo, Sony, Asustek and others are a larger proportion of Pegatron's output. But it has to be said that Apple's business model (10 million of a new model delivered to end users within a couple of weeks of the unveiling) places tremendous strain on suppliers during the first few weeks of production. At least the workers were being allowed to sleep!

    Now give a moment's thought to the people in the supply chain for your christmas lights, and all the other disposable crud you buy with tin in it.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real crime is that one year, Tim Cook took away more loot, that ALL the foxconn/pegatron workers that built the istuff got paid.

    However you frame it, thats simply obscene.

  22. Chas

    Apple employ Pegatron et al to manufacture their products, Pegatron employ the labour, therefore it is Pegatron and, by extension, the Chinese govt who are directly responsible for working conditions, not Apple.

    Furthermore, a metric shit ton of other companies use Pegatron's facilities, where was the criticism of them? At least Apple publicly and transparently acknowledge their part in the whole process and make efforts to improve the worker's lot, and do a demonstrably damn sight more than others.

    Perhaps if first world countries hadn't pissed away their manufacturing expertise and capacity, focussing instead on dubious "financial services" (I'm looking at you in particular, neoliberal Britain), we might not have jejune and didactic journalism of this sorry calibre.

    Expecting the inevitable downvotes in 3...2...1...

    1. P0l0nium

      I upvoted you !! I'm all for 75 hr weeks if it buys the groceries.

      These neoliberals don't understand 3rd world economics where your 13yr old sewing footballs buys a roof over the family's heads.

      I'm off to France, which is an economic basket-case because no one works more than 35 Hrs.

      1. DiViDeD one works more than 35 hours

        35 might be an exaggeration. I've worked in Paris offices where I've waited in vain for people to come back from lunch on a friday. But I have to say that the French workforce is one of the happiest (and productive!) I have worked with.

        Just where does it say we should be subordinate to tbe time clock and bloody miserable to boot?

    2. Return To Sender

      Units, dear boy...

      "Furthermore, a metric shit ton "

      No, no , no; "Furthermore, a metric shit tonne".

      You're welcome.

      1. DavCrav

        Re: Units, dear boy...

        I always thought it was a metric fucktonne, actually. Is this like an ounce and a Troy ounce?

  23. Michael 43

    Pegatron is a Taiwanese company

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. Mike Shepherd

    God bless us, every one!

    And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless those Chinese kids working 20 hours a day so I can have my kit cheaper....or is it so that Apple can mark up 200 per cent instead of 185?

    1. DiViDeD

      Re: God bless us, every one!

      @Mike Shepherd; That's the rub, isn't it? Apple, along with other 'premium' brands, have seen production costs plummet as they've sought cheaper and cheaper labour markets, and what they've generally done with those cost savings is increase profits and dividends.

      I'm pretty sure Globalisation wasn't supposed to be like that. Globalisation was sold to us as an opportunity to level the plying field by creating a global market, yet all it seems to have achieved is a workforce who can never hope to own even one of the products they produce, while the West produces less and less, while continuing to consume more and more of this tat.

      1. Scott Broukell

        Re: God bless us, every one!

        You mean . . I . . what . . wait . . that we were mis sold Globalization as well! It's as if we now find ourselves top dog - atop a pile of crumbling social needs, low pay, misery and economic seizure.

      2. Tim Worstal

        Re: God bless us, every one!

        Slightly strange. Chinese manufacturing wages have gone from $1,000 a year in 2000 AD to $6,500 a year in 2014 AD.

        6.5x the wages in under 15 years is a pretty good result from globalisation isn't it?

        1. Scott Broukell

          Re: God bless us, every one!

          @Tim Worstal

          Not all but very many workers in China continue to be dawn to the cities for work because of economic allure, but the majority of those leave children, wives/husbands behind, sometimes many hundreds of miles away. Whilst the wages appear reasonable, when compared to subsistence farming, leaving the kids with grand parents who struggle with the burden, and not seeing them for 6-months at a time, is not an easy thing to bear. If you are young and single it's fine, but what sort of housing could you expect if starting a young family in the city - have you seen what's happened to property prices in big urban/city areas over the past 10-15 years.

          1. Scott Broukell

            Re: God bless us, every one!

            Add to that the fact that if you do travel some 900 miles for work and you come from the 'wrong' region/ethnic group, you can come up against some pretty nasty discrimination that can leave you further out of pocket and generally make life rather difficult all round. Such matters aren't, of course, the sole preserve of China and it's economics.

        2. DiViDeD

          @ Tim Worstall Re: God bless us, every one!

          The point I was trying to make, in my own inarticulate way, is tha $6,500 a year for someone living in a city, paying rent, buying food, paying bus or train fares, buying clothes and having a little to send home is not exactly a king's ransom when compared with a subsistence (plus a little surplus to sell) farmer who will generally get most of his food from the sweat of his hands, without having to purchase it, will generally not travel far from the farm, engages in barter for life's (very) little luxuries, and so on.

          Plus I think my original point remains. How many assembly workers earning $6,500 a year can afford the products they are assembling? When I contracted (NEVER use the word 'worked' or they expect results) at BMW's factory back in the 80s, my Triumph Spitfire was the only non Beamer in the employee carpark (it was also the only car that needed regular bump starts from groups of sneering teutonic carworkers at knocking off time, but that's a whole other issue)

          Oh, and $6,500 a year is still cheaper than building stuff in their target markets.

  26. Martin-73 Silver badge

    Apple are evil...

    and so are many others.

    Apparently Tim Cook was 'hurt'. Good. Stop running the company like the late unlamented Steve 'sociopath' Jobs, and run it ethically.

  27. alun phillips

    The point surely are...

    1. Apple boast of their ethical manufacturing thus deserve to be judged against such standards.

    2. Apple unlike many tech companies make huge profits on their hardware, they could afford to reinvest these in setting up ethical manufacturing companies, I believe the cash reserves apple are sitting on exceed the GDP of many of these countries they source from, yet they choose not to.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The point surely are...

      "1. Apple boast of their ethical manufacturing thus deserve to be judged against such standards."

      I'm sure Apple hasn't said anything that isn't technically, factually accurate about the employees in their supply chains. Other than just being honest, if they did, it would open them up to lawsuits. So if you're reading something into their statements that they're not saying, that's your fault, isn't it?

      "2. Apple unlike many tech companies make huge profits on their hardware, they could afford to reinvest these in setting up ethical manufacturing companies, ..."

      Give me a break, it's not Dearborn in 1922 where Ford could assemble a car end-to-end in one location from local trees and whatnot, and we're not talking about final assembly necessarily. One of the issues at hand is apparently a tin mine in Indonesia. Do you really think Apple should start its own tin mine?

  28. Paw Bokenfohr

    Surely it would have made sense for the show... compare and contrast what happens in these factories for people building Apple equipment with Samsung equipment, and HTC equipment, and Xiaomi equipment?

    That way, we'd be able to judge better whether the Apple policies were making things "better" (a value judgement) for those workers assigned to Apple production compared to those assigned to other vendors.

  29. Nadscratcher


    I am pretty sure you meant "DENIED"...

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