Workers at a repair shop used by Apple compare conditions to sweatshops

Employees at a Houston, Texas facility that handles repairs for Apple, Dell and Lenovo reportedly say they work in “sweatshop” conditions, according to a story by Insider. Workers’ toilets are reportedly unsanitary and inadequate, they say they have no air conditioning and they claim their wages are low at CSAT Solutions, a company that acts as a repair partner for tech companies like Apple.

In the report, that is worth reading in its entirety, employees are also reportedly saying that there are not enough bathrooms or parking spaces for the number of employees, and that they are not allowed to use their phones while on the job, even in the case of family or personal emergencies. An employee told Insider that she was leaving work only to find that her son had been taken to the hospital after being burned.

Alleged working conditions at CSAT surprised some workers, according to Insider, because they expected an environment that would reflect the prestige of the Apple brand. Instead, they reportedly faced quotas that were hard to meet, ranging from $12 to $14 an hour, with little hope of raises or promotions. Some employees told Insider that they had to work 60 hours a week to make ends meet.

CSAT Solutions did not immediately respond to an email inquiry from The edge. CSAT representatives told: Insider that the company sets high standards for its workplace and that it investigates employee complaints. In a statement to The edge, which can be read in full below, Apple said it will investigate the allegations and aims to “make sure everyone in [its] supply chain is protected and treated with dignity and respect.” Dell and Lenovo did not immediately respond to the request for comment.

According to Insider, employees felt that their previous concerns and reports to management had been ignored. Apple told The edge that it has reviewed CSAT’s Houston location several times in recent years, but has not discussed the findings.

However, Apple’s practice of visiting and inspecting suppliers’ facilities appears to be routine (PDF) to the point that suppliers can present themselves in a more positive light. InsiderThe report features stories from multiple employees about being asked to do work by the book by the book when Apple’s auditors were around.

Apple told The edge that it has the highest standards in the industry, and it has a page on its website dedicated to talking about supplier responsibility. Still, the company’s suppliers have faced allegations of poor factory working conditions, with three stories of forced labor, labor law violations (which Apple reportedly turned a blind eye to), and protests against pay cuts coming out in December 2020 alone. There has also recently been the issue of Apple’s own employees fighting for the ability to work remotely.

The Insider report also raises concerns about CSAT’s use of employment agencies to hire workers. According to Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct and Accountability Standards (PDF), the standards also apply to subcontractors, and Apple’s suppliers are responsible for ensuring that the companies they hire comply with the rules. However, the responsibility does not lie solely with Apple – according to Insider, CSAT also works for Dell and Lenovo. Especially the logo of Dell often appears in the promotional video on the website of CSATAT.

Employee reviews for CSAT Solutions on sites like Indeed and Glass door reiterate some of the concerns raised by Insider, with a lot compare working conditions with sweatshops, warn potential employees about: low wagesand expressing dissatisfaction with working hours and quotas. A few reviews also back up claims about the cleanliness and availability of the bathrooms, the heat and broken air conditioners, as well as the strict no cell phone rules. There are also quite a few positive reviews, but many of them are from non-repair workers.

A job listing for a computer repair technician position at CSAT, posted on the company’s website, says candidates must be willing to work overtime, without saying how much. Apple’s standards (PDF) state that workweeks should be limited to 60 hours, including overtime.

A vacancy from the CSAT website.

Here’s Apple’s full statement:

We maintain the highest standards in the industry and regularly assess our suppliers to ensure they comply. We’ve conducted three assessments at CSAT in Houston over the past few years, and Apple members visit the site regularly. We take all allegations seriously and will investigate. As always, our focus is to ensure that everyone in our supply chain is protected and treated with dignity and respect.