Report Highlights Depressing Working Conditions and Poor Treatment of Contract Workers at an Apple ‘Black Site’

Apple Park

Bloomberg report details the experience of working at one of Apple’s “black site.” The report cites experiences of employees working at one such black site located six miles away from Apple Park on Hammerwood Avenue in Sunnyvale.

The plain jane office is used by Apex Systems to hire contract workers to work on Apple Maps. Unlike Apple Park, employees at this satellite office are told to use the backdoor to enter and exit the office. Managers have even told the workers to hail cabs after walking several blocks away from the office building.

The working conditions inside the office building are not pleasing as well. The vending machines are almost always understocked and there’s always a queue to use the men’s washroom. Plus, employees always worked under the fear of getting fired anytime. Most workers usually left after 12-15 months, though it is common for many people to leave earlier than that.

Complaints about the bathrooms were common. Lines formed outside the men’s rooms, especially around lunchtime, according to former employees. (Because the workforce was predominantly male, the women’s rooms had ample capacity.) Anonymous complaints about inadequate facilities were scrawled on white boards around the office. Twice in 2017, Hammerwood workers filed complaints against Apple with the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Cal/OSHA. Apple told Cal/OSHA it had examined the situation and determined it was in compliance with the law.

It was made pretty plain to us that we were at-will employees and they would fire us at any time,” says one former Hammerwood contractor, who, like most of the workers interviewed for this story, spoke on condition of anonymity because he signed a nondisclosure agreement with Apex. “There was a culture of fear among the contractors which I got infected by and probably spread.”

Despite the site being used for Apple Maps work, it is managed by Apple contractor Apex Systems. When contacted by Bloomberg, Apple conducted a surprise audit at the office building and found the work environment consistent with its other locations.

“Like we do with other suppliers, we will work with Apex to review their management systems, including recruiting and termination protocols, to ensure the terms and conditions of employment are transparent and clearly communicated to workers in advance,” an Apple spokesperson says in a statement.

Apex Systems aggressively approaches people via LinkedIn to hire them. In messages, it would say that they are getting hired by Apple but the reality is different. Many people took jobs at Apex Systems hoping they would eventually get hired by Apple only to realize that the chances are almost non-existent.

Others took the job to put in their resume that they have worked at Apple via Apex Systems. Sadly, in 2018, Apex Systems told its employees that they could not use the word “Apple” in their resume and instead describe the company as “A Major Tech Company via Apex Systems.” Unlike full-time Apple employees, these contract workers are offered a different badge with a ‘sad grey’ Apple logo. Plus, they are not offered the same benefits as them as well. This includes not able to access the gym, a high health insurance premium, ever-changing working conditions and rules, and more.

The company’s hiring tactics are also shady at best. It would hire people nationwide which would lead to many shifting to California and signing expensive leases only to be terminated from their job within weeks.

Once, the company informed its workers that it was reducing the paid sick time from 48 hours to 24 hours, with the policy going into effect within 2 days. This led to a bunch of employees taking a sick leave the very next day citing sudden illness. Most of these employees are paid wages of $25 per hour.

Most employees who left Apex Systems ended up as a contract worker for Uber, Facebook, or Google. The working conditions there were better, with Google paying contract workers the most and even gives them access to the gym.

The report highlights how the environment among workers at Apex Systems is gloomy and depressing. They are unsure of their jobs, the skill they are learning is of little use in other companies, and the pay is poor despite them working for “Apple.”

Our Take

The report definitely paints a very depressing picture for contract workers hired by Apple’s partners. While the site mentioned here is in Sunnyvale, Apple has contract workers in satellite offices across the world. While Facebook, Google, Uber, and other tech giants also have thousands of contract workers, they don’t treat them as badly as Apple does. Here’s hoping that the company takes a look into how its contract workers are treated after this report.

[Via Bloomberg]

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