Chinese manufacturer Pegatron is under fire after five unexplained worker deaths, including one involving an underage employee. These fatalities were recorded at the company’s factories this year. The New York Times profiles this young worker as labor practices in Chinese factories face scrutiny again.
Pegatron is a Taiwanese electronics manufacturing company that operates the bulk of its factories in China and Taiwan. The company made headlines earlier this year when it was reported that Apple was moving away from Foxconn and choosing this smaller firm to assemble its lower-cost iPhone model. Besides the iPhone 5s, Pegatron also was a minor producer of the iPhone in 2011 and the iPad mini in 2012.
A report from the New York Times highlights the plight of a young Chinese laborer named Shi Zhaokun. Shi started working at Pegatron in September of this year and by October 9th, an illness forced him off the assembly line. Shortly after he arrived at the hospital, he died from pneumonia. Though worker documents indicate he was 20-years-old, further investigation after his death revealed he was only 15.
His family claims conditions at the factory contributed to his death, noting that he passed all physicals and was declared healthy prior to starting his employment. Though details on the factory work conditions were not available, Shi’s family documented his work schedule, revealing that the boy was working 70-80 hours per week. For its part, Pegatron claims the boy’s death “is not related to the workplace environment” and offered Shi’s family about 90,000 renminbi ($ 15,000) in compensation.
Shi is only one of several deaths reported at the company’s factories this year as accusations of workplace violations levied at Pegatron continue to mount. Most recently, China Labor Watch released a report over the summer claiming the manufacturer was violating both Chinese labor laws and Apple’s supplier code of conduct by forcing employees to work unpaid overtime.
Apple has yet to comment on Pegatron recent issues. Apple has been working on improving conditions in its overseas suppliers, auditing the companies on a regular basis and requiring them to adhere to a code of conduct that strives to improve factory working conditions. You can read more about Apple’s Supplier Responsibility program on the company’s website.