Scott Walker loves him some Foxconn. So much he basically handed over his entire state to it. And who wouldn’t love a company that has to put up suicide nets to stop its workers from throwing themselves off buildings instead of working there? Not to mention a company that loves it some child labor.
Foxconn, Apple’s main iPhone supplier, has stopped school-age interns from working illegal overtime at its Zhengzhou plant in central China following a Financial Times report.
The company turned to cheap student labour in September to catch up with orders after a shortage of workers caused delays in production of Apple’s anniversary iPhone X.
Six secondary school pupils said they were working 11-hour shifts at the Zhengzhou factory even though students are not allowed to work overtime under Chinese labour law. They were part of a group of 3,000 interns from the local Urban Rail Transit School sent on compulsory “work experience”.
“I thought I had done enough overtime but then my school teacher yelled at me for doing too little,” said Ms Yang, 18, an intern. According to the students, teachers were housed on-site to help manage them.
Foxconn confirmed on Wednesday it had taken “immediate action to ensure that no interns are carrying out any overtime work”. On Tuesday Apple said it had taken “prompt action” when it found some students were working overtime.
Student interns will now work up to eight hours a day.
“All of the interns have been taken off overtime, and this should continue,” one Foxconn employee told the FT. “Your report has made the factory improve. If there are more reports, they will also pay more attention to workers’ rights.”
The Foxconn climbdown is an unusual instance of Chinese worker-employee relations improving peacefully as Beijing continues to crack down on growing worker unrest. The state has also targeted labour and human rights advocates and lawyers.
On Wednesday Jiang Tianyong, the rights lawyer, was sentenced to two years in jail. Earlier this year workers’ rights advocates were detained by police for investigating a shoe factory that used to supply Ivanka Trump’s label.
Seven students aged 17 to 19 said their teachers made them carry out a compulsory “work experience” module at Zhengzhou in order to graduate from their vocational school. All seven were assembling the iPhone X yet were studying to become train attendants or railway managers.
Apple and Foxconn insisted the students were working voluntarily. “All work was voluntary and compensated appropriately,” said Foxconn.
This is also why we need constant investigations and real monitoring of all our corporations, not to mention legal repercussions throughout the supply chain for parent companies. Apple doesn’t care one way or another about child labor so long as it doesn’t lead to bad PR. Thanks to a brave reporter, it received that bad PR and things have gotten better, at least for now. But of course we cannot rely on the occasional reporter for ethical production standards. Until we create legal standards that cross borders and stop companies from taking advantage of workers internationally to avoid national laws, this sort of exploitation will continue.