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Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 10:51 pm PT (01:51 am ET)

1,000 workers strike at Apple keyboard supplier over long hours

Workers at a factory in southern China that supplies parts to Apple went on strike this week with complaints of grueling overtime requirements.

Owned by Taiwan's Jingyuan Computer group, the 3,000-worker plant provides Apple and IBM with components, including keyboards. A labor rights group reported that roughly 1,000 workers blocked a local highway during the protest, as noted by the Associated Foreign Press on Thursday.

The employees' grievances included complaints of nightly overtime demands, common workplace injuries, layoffs of older workers, lack of benefits and verbal abuse by managers, according to U.S.-based China Labor Watch. They halted the strike after company officials agreed to reduce overtime at the plant.

In a statement regarding the issue, the rights group called on Apple to "take responsibility, as there are more than 300 workers working on the Apple keyboard assembly line."

According to the report, several other Chinese manufacturing facilities have also seen worker incidents in recent weeks. Earlier this week, 400 workers at a bra factory also in Shenzhen protested after a manager told one to "jump off a roof and go to hell." Last week, 7,000 workers at a factory supplying shoes to New Balance, Adidas and Nike protested layoffs and wage cuts.

Apple has faced increasing scrutiny over its relationship with suppliers in China. The company recently met with representatives from five Chinese environmental groups over pollution concerns regarding its suppliers.

Since Apple tends to keep a tight lid on its list of partners, watchdog groups must do their own research to track them down. Among 27 alleged Apple suppliers that environmental groups had identified as excessive polluters, Apple told groups that only 15 of them were actual suppliers for the company. Apple has asked 11 of the 15 to reform and has promised to communicate with the other four.

The Cupertino, Calif., Mac maker conducts regular audits of its suppliers to monitor their working conditions and environmental impact. Last year,the company conducted 97 first-time audits and 30 repeat audits of its partners. Apple's 2011 supplier report found a number of instances of underage workers, as well as one case of bribery.

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