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Apple Sent Medical Team to Probe Pegatron Deaths in China

Pegatron's Headquarters in Taipei
The Pegatron Corp. logo is displayed at the company's headquarters in Taipei. Photographer: Ashley Pon/Bloomberg

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc., the world’s most valuable technology company, sent independent medical experts to a Chinese factory operated by supplier Pegatron Corp. after the deaths of some employees.

“While they have found no evidence of any link to working conditions there, we realize that is of little comfort to the families who have lost their loved ones,” Apple said in an e-mailed statement. “We have a team working with Pegatron at their facility to ensure that conditions meet our high standards.”

Apple has for years faced questions about working conditions at plants of suppliers that provide components and assemble its top-selling iPhones and iPads. The Cupertino, California-based company has published audits disclosing instances of child labor, long working hours, unfair compensation and practices that cause harm to the environment.

Several workers at Pegatron (Shanghai) Ltd. “passed away in a short period of time,” China Labor Watch said in a Dec. 9 statement without saying how many workers, whether they worked on Apple products, or how the labor group obtained the information. Pegatron also supplies Sony Corp. and Dell Inc.

A 15-year-old died of pneumonia on Oct. 9 at a Shanghai hospital after taking a pre-employment physical examination on Sept. 4 which indicated he was in good health, CLW wrote without saying whether the test included a lung examination or checked for signs of pneumonia.

‘Strict Measures’

The minimum age for employment or work is 15 years of age, according to Apple’s supplier code of conduct.

“Pegatron has strict measures in place to verify workers’ ages before and after they are hired, and we work with health and safety experts to provide a safe working environment for each and every worker,” the Taipei-based company said in an e-mailed statement. “We have an excellent track record of compliance with laws aimed at preventing underage labor.”

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has made improving conditions within its supply chain a priority and says the company will suspend business with those that violate its code of conduct. The company last year enlisted the Fair Labor Association to perform independent reviews of its suppliers.

Pegatron, spun off as the manufacturing arm of Asustek Computer Inc. in 2010, is the second company after Foxconn Technology Group to assemble iPhone and iPads, according to Apple’s supplier report. Quanta Computer Inc., also Taiwanese, makes computers for Apple.

Samsung Electronics

CLW said the Pegatron plant makes mobile phones and tablet computers, including Apple’s iPhone 5c. The labor group is seeking donations for an autopsy of the worker.

Foxconn, the world’s largest contract manufacturer of electronics, said in October it was investigating practices at its Yantai plant in China after interns worked overtime in breach of company policy.

Foxconn was criticized by activists for its work practices after employee suicides in 2010 led to factory inspections and the installation of safety nets. Foxconn had resolved 98 percent of 360 employee condition issues raised by the Washington-based Fair Labor Association during inspections, the group said in May.

CLW this month said a supplier to Samsung Electronics Co. isn’t paying some overtime to employees at a mobile-phone factory in southern China, citing an undercover investigation of the plant.

Samkwang Plant

Samkwang Science & Technology Co. in Dongguan also violated Chinese labor laws by discriminating against men, pregnant women, ethnic minorities and applicants older than 39, the New York-based group said in a report on its website.

Samsung, Asia’s largest technology company and the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones, said it will send a team of specialists to investigate the allegations and take necessary measures.

Last year, the group said a Chinese supplier of mobile-phone covers to Samsung employed underage girls in China. The group also found instances of forced overtime at HTNS Shenzhen Co. and said tightly shut windows resulted in poor air quality and a lack of proper ventilation.

Samsung has audited 105 Chinese suppliers and didn’t find any instance of underage workers, it said in a November 2012 statement.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Culpan in Taipei at tculpan1@bloomberg.net; Adam Satariano in San Francisco at asatariano1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net

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