Apple under pressure as Foxconn accused of hiding underage workers
Apple is under fire after their manufacturing partner Foxconn was accused of using forced student labour and hiding underage workers during the well publicised independent inspections last week.
Debby Sze Wan Chan, a case worker at Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) has been tracking what they allege to be "involuntary labour practices" at Foxconn. She told Reg that local governments in China "repay" Foxconn’s decision to locate in their area by getting vocational students to work in the factories as interns in order to help cope with the high turnover of employees.
“We describe the internships as involuntary or forced labour because if they don't go to the factory they may not be able to graduate or they may need to drop out of their courses,” says Chan. She added that, after speaking to Foxconn workers, the recent inspection by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) was hugely flawed, after SACOM gathered information which says that Foxconn are hiding illegal workers.
“I heard from Foxconn workers that underage workers of 16-17 years old were not assigned any overtime work during the audits,” she said. “It’s obvious that Foxconn prepared for the audits, although the FLA said they were unannounced.”
Even the FLA are coming under scrutiny, with SACOM claiming that they are “not really independent”, given that they're funded by corporate companies, including Apple themselves.
While many companies invariably have similar problems on their hands, Apple have made themselves a target by claiming to be more stringent about such matters and, in Apple's defence, CEO Tim Cook has admitted the existence of underage labour supplier plants and has pledged to end it. Apple have also pressured Foxconn into raising workers’ wages by 16 to 25 per cent.
But is it enough?