A coalition of labour-rights proponents has called on Apple to take the lead in promoting collective bargaining at mainland factories that make its top-selling products, such as the iPhone and iPad.
'Collective bargaining is the mechanism that will enable workers to negotiate with management on appropriate levels of pay and decent working conditions,' the group said in a manifesto released yesterday. 'It is especially critical to address health and safety problems.'
The declaration was released ahead of the anticipated publication next week of a report by the Fair Labour Association (FLA), which received Apple's go-ahead last month to inspect the mainland plants where more than 90 per cent of its products are assembled.
The group urged Apple and its largest supplier, the Foxconn Technology Group, to 'immediately establish a schedule of negotiations which will lead to a collective agreement that covers all aspects of work'.
The company must 'get directly involved in the bargaining process, so that its demands on unit prices and production deadlines do not undermine agreements on pay and working conditions'.
Labour activists have long pushed for greater collective-bargaining rights on the mainland, where independent labour unions are restricted by law. The coalition included Hong Kong advocacy group Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour, the International Trade Union Confederation, Netherlands-based GoodElectronics and makeITfair and the International Metalworkers' Federation.
The FLA started its audit at the mainland plants of Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry, Apple's main supplier whose electronics-manufacturing subsidiaries are known collectively under the Foxconn Technology trade name.
The contractor, with about a million employees on the mainland, has been blamed for labour-rights abuses which led to a string of worker suicides in 2010 and a fatal industrial accident last year.
'We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made,' Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu said.
In January, Apple published for the first time its list of 156 suppliers, a move that should help monitors keep tabs on these contractors.