Foxconn, the electronics contract manufacturing firm that supplies products to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and many other companies, is facing yet another controversy over its labor practices.
The Taiwan-based company has recently admitted to violating its own rules by employing student interns for overtime and night shifts at their factories.
Students from a university in Yantai, located in the northern coastal province of Shandong, have come forward to Chinese media claiming that more than a thousand of their classmates have been working illegal overtime hours at a nearby Foxconn factory helping in the production and packaging of the soon-to-be debuted Sony (NYSE: SNE) PlayStation 4 gaming console. Sony has confirmed that Foxconn is manufacturing the PlayStation 4, but did not confirm if they were made at the Yantai location.
“There have been a few instances where our polices pertaining to overtime and night shift work were not enforced,” Foxconn said in a statement. “Immediate actions have now been taken to bring that campus into full compliance with our code and policies.”
The students were essentially forced to work at the factory in order to fulfill their credit requirements to graduate. According to a report by Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily newspaper, the class of engineering students at the Xi’an Institute of Technology was told that participation in the internship at Foxconn was “necessary” if they wanted to receive six credits that would make them eligible to graduate on time. Foxconn said that the company has internship programs set up in various locations in China, but insisted that the experience is intended to give students an “opportunity to gain practical work experience and on-the-job training that will support their efforts to find employment following their graduation.” According to Quartz, the “internships” included performing such tasks as gluing parts together, applying stickers and boxing up accessories, earning students the same wage as entry-level employees.
Foxconn has a long and troubling history of labor woes. Just last year, the same factory that the university students have come forward about admitted to temporarily hiring under-age interns, some of whom were as young as 14 years old.
In 2010 Foxconn was under investigation after a string of factory-worker suicides (largely due to overwork and poor working conditions) drew attention from labor rights activists and the global media.
The latest allegations came just days after Foxconn CEO Terry Gou made a statement about the lack of young people interested in factory jobs. Talking to a delegation at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in Bali, Indonesia, Gou lamented on how China’s young workers were no longer lining up to work on an assembly line and instead were more interested in finding jobs in the technology or service sectors.