iPhone Manufacturer Faces Labor Complaints
BEIJING - The company that manufactures Apple’s iPhones has responded to an accusation that vocational students are forced to work in its Chinese factories by saying Wednesday its agreement with their schools allows them to leave.
China Labor Watch, a Hong Kong group, said this week that Foxconn, which employs some 1.2 million people in China, employed students aged 16 to 18 in its factories. It cited employees as saying some wanted to leave but were compelled by their schools to stay.
Foxconn, owned by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., said it takes interns from vocational schools who work for one to six months in its facilities. It said students are picked by their schools, are at least the minimum Chinese legal working age, receive the same wages as entry-level employees and are accompanied by teachers who monitor them throughout the program.
Foxconn’s agreement with schools says "students are free to leave the internship program at any time," the company said in a written response to questions.
Foxconn, owned by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., has faced complaints in the past about wages and working hours. It raised minimum pay and promised in March to limit hours after an auditor hired by Apple found Foxconn employees regularly were required to work more than 60 hours a week.
Foxconn makes iPhones and iPads for Apple Inc. and also assembles products for Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. It has factories in the southern city of Shenzhen, in Chengdu in the west and in Zhengzhou and Taiyuan in central China.
Conditions in factories in China are a sensitive issue for foreign brands that outsource production of shoes, consumer electronics and other goods to local contractors.
Apple’s auditor, the Fair Labor Association, said in August that improvements it recommended in March at Foxconn factories were being carried out ahead of schedule.
That included verifying student interns’ ages, making sure their work was relevant to their education and having them work no more than eight hours per day and five days per week.
The FLA said its investigation in February found 46 interns at Foxconn’s Longhua factory in the southern city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, but none were under 18. It said no interns were found at another Shenzhen factory or at a facility in the western city of Chengdu.