Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Foxconn admits employing underage workers, promises more oversight

Foxconn, which earlier denied reports of labor unrest in one of its Chinese plants which produces the iPhone 5, has been forced to admit to further, different labor issues. The firm confirmed on Tuesday that it has been employing underage workers.

In a statement issued by the company, Foxconn said:

"An internal investigation carried out by our company has confirmed media reports in China that some participants in the short-term student internship program that is administered at our campus in Yantai, Shandong Province are under the legal working age of 16 years.

"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. We are also carrying out a full investigation, in cooperation with the respective educational institutions, to determine how this happened and the actions that must be taken by our company to ensure that it can never happen again.

"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. We have found no evidence of similar violations in any of our other campuses in China but we will not hesitate to take immediate action in any campus if any violations are discovered."

The internship program is designed to allow legal-age students the opportunity to gain experience at Foxconn. Interns are paid the same salary as regular workers, but also must experience the same grueling conditions as those other workers.

The company has partnered with a number of vocational schools and educational institutions for these internships. The company said that these internships range in duration from three to six months, with the average being about 3.5 months. Foxconn added that about 2.7 percent of its 1.2 million Chinese employees are interns.

However, the firm said, it is the schools that recruit the students, under the supervision of local governments. The schools are provided with Foxconn's qualification requirements, and one would expect that they would be aware of the law, as well.

The watchdog group China Labor Watch acknowledged the responsibility of the schools, but noted that "... Foxconn is also culpable for not confirming the ages of their workers."

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