Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn accused of "forced internships"

Although it's not as though the FLA's report on Foxconn, Apple's key manufacturer in China, gave it a clean slate, there are those, such as SACOM, who believe that things were hidden from auditors. A new report focuses on "forced internships" at Foxconn plants.

According to SACOM (Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour), Foxconn employs tens of thousands of students, some of them on forced internships. Some of the students could be as young as 16, the report said.

The term "forced internships" refers to students being told they will not graduate unless they spend months working on production lines during the holidays. Debby Cheng, project officer of SACOM said,

"The gross violation of forced internship was not addressed at all [during the Foxconn audit]. They tried to water down the problem."

SACOM and a number of Chinese media outlets have claimed that China's colleges and universities are acting as "unofficial" employment agencies, sending their students to Foxconn to increase the company's workforce during summer and winter holiday periods.

In March, SACOM issued a public letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, in which it urged him to call on Foxconn to halt the use of student workers. The letter said,

"Students who major in subjects such as pharmacy, tourism and language end up working as interns at Foxconn. Some students even complain that if they refuse the 'internship' at Foxconn, they will be forced to drop out of school. This is a form of involuntary labour, which is approved by Apple in producing its products."

While Apple would say it does not explicitly approve of the internships, critics would say that its continued use of Foxconn as its No. 1 manufacturing partner implicitly issues approval.

The report came just a day after Terry Gou, Chairman of Hon Hai, Foxconn's parent company, promised to reduce hours while at the same time improving worker pay after the FLA audit.

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