A watchdog group is claiming that electronics giant Foxconn is illegally employing teenagers to make electronic devices that include Amazon’s Alexa.
The group China Labor Watch reported the illegal conditions at the Hengyang Foxconn plant, which employs almost 7,500 people, were first noted in 2018, but have grown worse since then.
China Labor Watch said that the students are recruited from vocational schools, and are paid $1.42 per hour. Teachers at the schools get paid for supplying students and schools get paid for the number of hours interns work.
The factory seeks to evade limits on student employment by classifying the youth as interns. China Labor Watch said that Foxconn exceeds the legal limit on interns, who are paid less than regular employees.
In a statement to The Western Journal, Amazon said it is investigating the allegations against its supplier.
“We do not tolerate violations of our Supplier Code of Conduct. We regularly assess suppliers, using independent auditors as appropriate, to monitor continued compliance and improvement–if we find violations, we take appropriate steps, including requesting immediate corrective action,” Amazon said.
“We are urgently investigating these allegations and addressing this with Foxconn at the most senior level. Additional teams of specialists arrived on-site yesterday to investigate, and we’ve initiated weekly audits of this issue.”
China Labor Watch said the Foxconn factory violated Chinese labor laws by forcing students to work night shifts.
“Interns are required to work 10 hours a day, and this includes two hours of overtime, in addition to working six days a week. A number of interns were arranged to work night shifts. If interns were unwilling to work overtime or night shifts, the factory would arrange for teachers to pressure workers,” China Labor Watch wrote.
“For interns who refuse to work overtime and night shifts, the factory requests teachers from their schools to fire them. Teachers often physically and verbally attack interns, and on July 30, many workers witnessed a teacher hitting an intern. The teacher aggressively grabbed the intern by the ear, did not let him swipe out of work and scolded him.”
The plant also violates overtime rules for all workers, China Labor Watch said, claiming that in July, 375 of the plant’s workers were worked beyond the overtime rules.
“The factory has to produce a large number of orders for Amazon in August, hence workers have been working overtime recently. Many production line workers have put in over 60 hours a week and do not receive a day of rest a week. In order to finish the production goal, some workers only had two days off for the entire month in July,” China Labor Watch said.
In a statement to The Guardian, Foxconn did not deny the allegations.
“We have doubled the oversight and monitoring of the internship program with each relevant partner school to ensure that, under no circumstances, will interns [be] allowed to work overtime or nights,” the statement said.
“There have been instances in the past where lax oversight on the part of the local management team has allowed this to happen and, while the impacted interns were paid the additional wages associated with these shifts, this is not acceptable and we have taken immediate steps to ensure it will not be repeated.”
Foxconn also sought to put a positive light on the use of lower-paid student workers.
“It provides students, who are all of a legal working age, with the opportunity to gain practical work experience and on-the-job training in a number of areas that will support their efforts to find employment following their graduation,” the statement said.
But that is not how one worker cited in China Labor Watch’s full report saw it. The report described the impact of the factory on a female student named Xiao Fang, 17.
“From July 22nd, she started working two hours of overtime a day, and was working six days a week. She worked on the production line assembling the Echo. Her work every day was to stick a protective film over the echo dot, and she had to work on 3000 Echo dots a day,” the report read.
“Xiao Fang tried telling the manager of her line, that she didn’t want to work overtime. But the manager notified her school’s teacher. The teacher went to speak to Xiao Fang and said that if she doesn’t work overtime, she can’t intern at Foxconn and this will affect her graduation and scholarship applications at the school etc. With no choice, Xiao Fang could only endure this.”
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