A report from The New York Times has highlighted complaints that Foxconn, which assembles components for Apple and other technology companies, has been forcing vocational student workers to make iPhones.
The accusations come from two groups, which have been following Foxconn’s practices closely: A Taiwanese group called Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior and the New York-based group China Labor Watch. China Labor Watch has also been vocal lately about working conditions in Samsung factories, prompting Samsung to look into reports that the companies in its production chain use underage workers to build its phones.
The groups say that student employees at Foxconn who work at the factory as part of a vocational program — meant, it seems, to be like a short apprenticeship — are forced to put in long hours in order to complete final production on Apple’s iPhone.
Foxconn, the trade name for Hon Hai Industries, also assembles components for other products such as Microsoft’s Xbox and Amazon’s Kindle.
An Apple spokesman declined to comment to The Washington Post on the Times report, but referred to Apple’s code of conduct for its suppliers, which requires them to comply with all local labor laws.
In a statement to the Post, Foxconn said that its “short-term internship program” is in line with Chinese labor laws and that interns comprise 2.7 percent of its labor force in China. Schools, not Foxconn, recruit students into the programs, the company said, and the programs are supervised by local government authorities and teachers assigned to monitor the students’ work.
“In addition to allowing the students to gain relevant industry experience while earning the same industry-competitive compensation as our full-time entry-level workers, this program gives Foxconn an opportunity to identify participants in the internship program who have the potential to be excellent full-time employees should they wish to join our company upon graduation from their vocational school,” the statement read.
In January, Apple joined the Fair Labor Association, which subsequently audited three Foxconn factories to check on labor conditions. In a report released late last month, the group said that Foxconn had made progress when it came to working conditions, and that Apple had done its “due diligence” when it came to holding Foxconn accountable for following an action plan to improve worker conditions.
The group did look into the issue of interns and issued a short status report on the internship program plan dated June 30, 2012. The report found that Foxconn had put many procedures and processes into place to make sure that the company was complying with local laws and other regulations. For example, the policies for hiring the interns state that they must be placed in a job that is “in alignment with their educational background,” that their ages are verified and that a policy is in place strictly forbidding interns to work overtime. Foxconn has also, the report said, set up a hotline for interns and outlined procedures that allow them to “resign” from the program.
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