Workers put up scaffolding on a building owned by the contract manufacturer Foxconn International Holdings Ltd on Nov. 28, 2010 in Shenzhen, China. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
Foxconn, the largest maker of contracted electronics components for Apple and other companies, admitted this week that it used workers as young as 14 in a Chinese factory that produces parts for the upcoming Nintendo Wii U video game console, circumventing international and domestic legal standards.
The China Labor Watch rights group on Tuesday accused Foxconn Technology Group of using intern workers under the age of 16 during the summer and has started sending the teenagers back to school. Their respective schools had actually sent the students to work at Foxconn, but apparently the company did not check their IDs.
The watchdog cited a report in which the underage student complained they were being forced to work at the factory otherwise they would be expelled from school. Some said the factory forced them to work every day of the week, did not give them sick leave, and made them work overtime and night shifts.
After an investigation, Foxconn admitted that underage workers were present at one of its facilities in China.
“Our investigation has shown that the interns in question, who ranged in age from 14 to 16, had worked in that campus for approximately three weeks,” Foxconn said in a statement obtained by Reuters.
“This is not only a violation of China’s labor law, it is also a violation of Foxconn policy and immediate steps have been taken to return the interns in question to their educational institutions,” the statement reads.
The statement said that the young interns worked at a plant in Yantai, located in northern Shandong Province, but did not elaborate on how many were employed there.
China Labor Watch, citing a reporter from the local Chinese “Breadth of News” radio show, found that the student workers did the same tasks as normal workers in the facility, and regularly had to work overtime and night shifts. Many students said they wanted to go back to school, but their teachers issued threats to force them to stay working at the factory.
“If you don’t intern, then you won’t get any credit, won’t receive a graduation diploma, or may even be kicked out of school,” China Labor Watch said, citing the report. And Foxconn never allowed them to “end their internship and leave the factory whenever they wish,” according to the labor watchdog.
One of the students, Xiao Wang, was quoted as saying: “I did transport work, helping them move goods. Right now, the night shift is 7:40 p.m. until the morning… you know, till what time in the morning is uncertain.”
“Whenever the work is done is when you get off your shift. If you don’t finish the work, he [the production line foreman] won’t let you end your shift. Usually, you can get off by 7 a.m.,” the student added. “My arms would hurt from the work.”
Xiao Wang said last Friday, he was forced to work consecutive night and overtime shifts and told his teacher he did not feel well. When he asked the teacher for sick leave, the teacher did not give him approval and later received a third “absenteeism” and was subsequently fired.
The teacher then told him he would then be expelled from school when he returns.
Another student told the report they are not allowed to get a day off, even on the weekend. “Not even one,” an underage student was quoted as saying.
“You have to look at whether or not production output is high. If it is high every weekend, then production won’t stop on any of those weekends,” the student said.
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