Monday, September 20, 2021

Workers at a repair facility used by Apple compare conditions to sweatshops

Workers at a Houston, Texas facility that processes repairs for Apple, Dell, and Lenovo reportedly say they are working in “sweatshop” conditions, according to a story from Insider. Workers’ toilets are reportedly unsanitary and insufficient, they say they lack air conditioning, and they claim their pay is low at CSAT Solutions, a company that acts as a repair partner for tech companies like Apple.

In the report, which is worth reading in its entirety, employees also reportedly say there aren’t enough bathrooms or parking spots for the number of workers, and that they’re not allowed to use their phones while working, even in the case of family or personal emergencies. One employee said that he was told by another. InsiderWhen she got off work, she discovered that her son had been admitted to the hospital following an accident.

Some employees were taken by surprise by the working conditions at CSAT, according to InsiderThey expected an environment that reflected the Apple brand’s prestige. They were reportedly subject to difficult quotas and paid $12 to $14 an hr with little prospect of promotions or raises. Some employees shared their stories. InsiderThey had to work 60 hours per week to make ends meet.

CSAT Solutions didn’t immediately respond to an emailed question from The Verge. CSAT representatives spoke InsiderThe company has high standards and investigates employee complaints. A statement was made to The Verge, which can be read in full below, Apple said that it will be investigating the allegations, and that its focus is “making sure that everyone in [its] supply chain is protected and treated with dignity and respect.” Dell and Lenovo didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

According to InsiderEmployees felt that their concerns and reports to management were ignored. Apple said The Verge that it has assessed CSAT’s Houston location multiple times in recent years, but didn’t discuss its findings.

The practice of Apple visiting and inspecting suppliers’ facilities, however, seems to be routine (PDF) to the point that suppliers may be able to paint themselves in a more positive light. Insider’s report includes stories from multiple employees about being asked to carry out work in a more by-the-book fashion when Apple’s auditors were around.

Apple said The VergeIt has the highest standards in its industry and has a page dedicated to supplier responsibility on its website. Still, the company’s suppliers have faced accusations of poor factory working conditions, with three stories about forced labor, labor law violations (where Apple allegedly turned a blind eye), and protests of pay reduction coming out in December 2020 alone. There’s also recently been the issue of Apple’s own employees fighting for the ability to work remotely.

The Insider report also raises concerns about CSAT’s usage of temp agencies to hire workers. According to Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct and Responsibility Standards (PDF), its standards also apply to subcontractors, and Apple’s suppliers are responsible for ensuring that the companies they hire are also in compliance. The responsibility, however, is not Apple’s alone — according to InsiderCSAT does work for both Dell and Lenovo. In particular, Dell’s logo shows up frequently in the promotional video atop CSAT’s website.

CSAT Solutions employee reviews on sites such as Indeed and Glassdoor echo the concerns raised by InsiderMany complained about working conditions and compared them to sweatshops. They also warned potential employees about low pay and expressed dissatisfaction regarding working hours and quotas. There are a few reviews that support the claims about the cleanliness, availability of bathrooms, heat, broken air conditioners, and strict no-cellphone rules. Although there are some positive reviews, many are not from repair employees.

A job listing for a computer repair technician position at CSAT, found on the company’s website, says that candidates must be willing to work overtime, without saying how much. Apple’s standards (PDF) state that workweeks have to be restricted to 60 hours, including overtime.

The job listing includes the line “This position will require the candidate to have some knowledge of computer components and be willing to work overtime.”

A job listing from CSAT’s website.

Here’s Apple’s full statement:

We maintain the highest standards in the industry, and we regularly review suppliers to ensure that they meet them. In recent years, we have completed three assessments at CSAT Houston. Apple members regularly visit the site. We take all allegations seriously, and will investigate. As always, we are focused on ensuring that everyone within our supply chain is treated with dignity & respect.

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