On the one hand, Apple pledges improvement. On the other hand, the U.S. company plays its contractors against one another to further reduce wages. In their most recent study, the independent workers’ organization China Labor Bulletin in Hong Kong arrived at the conclusion that the conditions under which iPhones, iPads and MacBooks are manufactured in the People’s Republic of China have gotten appreciably worse.

The organization has verified that the contractors for Apple continue to employ minors and systematically withhold overtime. In addition, there are miserable industrial safety regulations. That is a slap in the face for all who have believed the recent promises of the U.S. firm. Apple has been under criticism for years because of the conditions at its previous supplier, Foxconn. To limit the threatening damage to its image, Apple shifted part of its production to manufacturer Pegatron. Now it turns out the working conditions there are even worse.

This is not due to China’s legislation. Even if independent unions are not allowed, Chinese labor laws provide for minimum wages, regulation of working hours and clear industrial safety regulations. At the very least, the latter matches up with those in Europe. But the implementation is lacking.

Now, a government can rightly be criticized for that if it is not in a position to control the contractors in its territory. As long as a powerful firm like Apple continues to care little about working conditions and plays suppliers against one another, the state has few prospects. And as long as Apple resorts to lip service and tolerates the abuses, the filth of an exploitative firm will stick to every iPhone.