Supplier Wintek Lands Apple in Labor Dispute

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Photo Credit: Jonathan Adams/GlobalPost

This morning, Apple had a little more to worry about than the usual leaks, rumors and lawsuits. Protesters in Taipei, Taiwan, gathered outside of the company’s corporate office in the region to express their displeasure in Apple’s choice of suppliers. Wintek, which makes flat-panel displays for Apple’s line of computers, is being targeted by the group for its alleged exploitation (PDF) of workers at its factories in Taiwan and China.

After allegedly failing to get Wintek to comply through direct action, labor groups, including Taipei-based National Federation of Independent Trade Unions, decided to put pressure on Apple instead, in the hopes that it would attract more media attention to their cause and convince Apple to push its supplier to act. According to GlobalPost, protest organizer Chu Wei-li said, “We want to go through Apple to put pressure on Wintek.”

Labor groups behind the protest claim that Wintek summarily dismissed 600 employees in December of last year, then cut salaries across the board and forced remaining workers to work unpaid overtime to cope with the change in available manpower. A Wintek subsidiary is also under fire from workers’ rights activists for allegedly maintaining unacceptable working conditions, lowering salaries without negotiation, and illegal firings following strike action.

Wintek, for its part, says it has done nothing wrong and that all layoffs and pay policies were completely aboveboard and in line with local regulations. Apple’s Asia representative responded to GlobalPost via email, saying:

Apple is committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility wherever our products are [made], and we require corrective actions when we find violations.

Apple’s own high standards are exactly what protesters and labor groups are asking the company to enforce in the case of Wintek. Pressure from Apple could have significant influence over Wintek’s actions going forward, especially if recent rumors about a 2010 tablet from Cupertino prove true, because Wintek would likely supply displays for the device. If its track record is any indicator, Apple will likely move swiftly to resolve this matter to avoid legal or government intervention, which could theoretically result in its future hardware plans coming under unwanted scrutiny.

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