Apple contractor Foxconn, which briefly closed its Taiyuan plant late last month after a large worker brawl, acknowledged on Tuesday that it hired underage workers at one of its other China plants. From The Wall Street Journal:
The Taiwanese company, which also uses the trade name Foxconn Technology Group, 2038.HK +2.07%said that it had employed interns as young as 14 at its campus in Yantai, in the northeastern Chinese province of Shandong, for approximately three weeks. Hon Hai said it took “immediate steps” to return the interns to their educational institutions.
The company didn’t disclose specifics, including how many were hired, and it wasn’t clear what products are made at the plant. But it said in a statement that despite “a strict company policy of not commenting on our customers or their products,” that “our Yantai facility has no association with any work we carry out on behalf of Apple.”
Reuters has more on Foxconn’s statement to the public:
“This is not only a violation of China’s labour 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,” it said.
Foxconn made the announcement after investigating Chinese media reports of underage interns among its China workforce of 1.2 million. It said it had found no evidence of similar violations at any of its other plants in China.
Foxconn said it would work with local government to bar the schools involved in the Yantai case from the intern program unless shown to be compliant with labour law and company policy.
“However, we recognize that full responsibility for these violations rests with our company and we have apologized to each of the students for our role in this action,” the firm said.
The acknowledgement from Foxconn came in response to Chinese media reports and a statement from China Labor Watch. The U.S.-based NGO said that the interns were “mainly sent to Foxconn by schools” and that the schools involved should take responsibility, according to BBC News, though the group also admitted that Foxconn did not check their identification and should also accept blame. Duncan Innes-Ker of the Economist Intelligence Unit told BBC News that the problem stretches beyond fake IDs:
“The market for relatively unskilled labour in China has been tightening, and now there is even more incentive for companies to relax their standards, so they try and fill up their work spaces,” he said.
“Companies do have a responsibility to check with the people that they are hiring are above that age.
“The difficulty is the enforcement of regulation which in China has been a grey area for a number of years.”
Foxconn said that 2.7 percent of its 1.2m workforce are currently interns, according to The Financial Times.