Apple, Google, Samsung supplier Biel Crystal worker rights violations claimed

AppleMotorolaGoogleSamsung and others are under fire over labor conditions at yet another supplier as a Hong Kong rights group makes serious allegations concerning Biel Crystal Manufactory Ltd.

Apple, Google, Samsung supplier Biel Crystal worker rights violations claimed

[ABOVE: An earlier SACOM protest marred the opening of Apple's first retail store in Hong Kong (Source: SACOM.)]

Modern slaves?

Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) makes numerous allegations against the company, including forced 11-hour shifts, severe industrial injury without compensation and seven day working. The report claims at least five workers at the firm's Chinese plant have committed suicide since 2011. There are a series of disturbing images of injuries here.

Apple is responding to the allegations, telling Reuters:

"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.

"Every year Apple inspects more factories, going deeper into the supply chain and raising the bar for our suppliers. In 2012 we conducted 393 audits at supplier facilities around the world."

Reports -- including SACOM's own -- seem to suggest the plant is involved in manufacturing glass for iPhone displays..

iWatch displays?

There's another interesting point within these claims: Biel Crystal doesn't make conventional PC parts, instead it seems focused on camera lenses, glass for smartphones and the glass cases used on watches.

You'll find glass manufactured by the Apple supplier on watches from Tag Heuer, Franck Muller, Christian Dior, Gucci, Longines, Roger Dubuis, Movado, Techno Marine, Citizen, Oris, Cvstos, Guess, Polar and more. It's an extensive selection detailing many of the biggest names in the watch industry.

When it comes to smartphone glass, Apple isn't alone. While SACOM is focused on the giant US corporation in order to reinforce its message regarding labor relations, Biel Crystal claims to be the "leader of mobile phone cover glass makers", alleging it supports over 90 percent of the major smartphone brands around the world. This means that any Android user is likely to be using glass manufactured under the harsh labor conditions described by SACOM.

Google, Samsung also use Biel Crystal

SACOM claims the company manufactures 60 percent of the glass used across all touchscreen phones, including 60 percent of the glass used by Apple and 20 percent of the glass used in Samsung phones. It gets worse: it also makes the glass used in phones from HTC, Huawei, TCL, Lenovo, Nokia, Motorola, LG and Seiko.

This means Google is also implicated in permitting punitive labor practices in factories it does business with, as Google now owns Motorola Mobility, which uses glass from the company.

The significance here is clear: every smartphone owner on the planet now has a chance to force their favored brand of device to take fast and decisive action to address these freshly disclosed punitive labor practices. It doesn't matter if you use Android or Apple, you can make a difference -- today -- by demanding your chosen brand take action: Samsung, Motorola, whatever.

The very least you can expect from any of these manufacturers is a public statement that matches Apple's stated commitment to investigate these labor abuses, now they have been revealed.

It would be highly refreshing if the big brands from outside the Apple-verse were able to make and prove a commitment to "insist suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes". This is not an Apple challenge. This is a global challenge.

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