The manufacturing partner of Apple, Foxconn Technology, is now facing claims that vocational students were compelled to work at plants that make the iPhone and its components. The company has said that it uses ‘interns’ on manufacturing lines but claims those students are allowed to leave whenever they choose. Students have said that they were forced to make iPhones at a Foxconn factory located in Zhengzhou, China.
“They said they are forced to work by the teachers,” Li Qiang, founder of China Labor Watch, said. Staff members of China Labor Watch said that students claim 10 out of 87 workers for iPhone assembly lines were students. “They don’t want to work there — they want to learn,” Qiang said. “But if they don’t work, they are told they will not graduate, because it is a very busy time with the new iPhone coming, and Foxconn does not have enough workers without the students.”
Foxconn said that students comprise 2.7 percent of its 1.2 million workforce in China, according to a statement. That accounts for 32,000 workers. The statement also said that the schools “recruit the students under the supervision of the local government, and the schools also assign teachers to accompany and monitor the students throughout their internship.”
The Fair Labor Association, hired by Apple to audit Foxconn, said that Foxconn was making progress in cutting hours and improving work conditions for workers. “I am concerned about these recent reports, and we’re following up,” Auret van Heerden, the president and chief executive of the Fair Labor Association, said. “If there have been any breakdowns in policies, we expect changes to be made.”
Advocates for employees at Foxconn said that the company is under pressure to fill huge orders as quickly as possible.
“When students enroll in vocational schools, they should receive a genuine education,” Debby Chan Sze Wan said. Wan is a member of Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior. “Standing in a factory, doing the same motion for 10 hours a day, this is not an education. And they are told they cannot leave, that they must work or they will be dismissed from school.”
According to articles in the Chinese press, schools were closed in Huai’an so the students could work in the Foxconn plants, some working 12 hours per day. Officials from Huai’an released a statement that said higher education institutions have to follow policies.
“The university told us it’s a good way to experience corporate culture,” a student told one Chinese newspaper. “Even though many of my classmates are reluctant to go to Foxconn, our teachers still asked us to work there starting in August.”