China interns work illegal hours on iPhone X

Interns at a factory operated by Hon Hai Precision Industry, part of Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group, worked voluntarily and received benefits, Apple said.
Interns at a factory operated by Hon Hai Precision Industry, part of Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group, worked voluntarily and received benefits, Apple said. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI • Apple has found that its main supplier in Asia has been employing high-school students working illegal overtime to assemble the iPhone X.

While interns at a factory operated by Hon Hai Precision Industry, part of Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group, worked voluntarily and received benefits, their working hours were longer than Chinese law permits, Apple said in a statement.

The Financial Times reported on Tuesday that a group of 3,000 students from the Zhengzhou Urban Rail Transit School were sent to work at the local facility.

"When we found that some students were allowed to work overtime, we took prompt action," said Apple. The students worked at the factory as part of a three-month stint billed as "work experience", a requirement to graduate, the FT reported. Six students said they routinely worked 11-hour days assembling Apple's flagship smartphone, which is illegal overtime for student interns under Chinese law.

Apple's supply chain has faced criticism over poor labour standards for years, and it has pushed manufacturing partners to improve factory conditions or risk losing business. This year, Apple released two new iPhones for the first time, putting extra pressure on its suppliers and assemblers to churn out millions of handsets ahead of the key holiday shopping season.

"Apple actually knew about this a couple of weeks ago, however, they haven't resolved the issue yet," said Mr Li Qiang, founder of New York-based advocacy group China Labour Watch, which monitors working conditions in Apple's supply chain.

The iPhone X has faced hiccups in production that stymied some suppliers and held back business for Hon Hai, which gets more than half its sales from Apple.

Hon Hai is the exclusive assembler of the iPhone X and Apple did not start selling its marquee device until this month, about two months after the iPhone 8 hit shelves.

Foxconn said company policy does not allow interns, who represent a "very small" percentage of its workforce, to work more than 40 hours a week on "programme-related assignments".

The firm did acknowledge a "number of cases where portions of our campuses have not adhered to this policy". Foxconn said it has taken action to correct the situation and will review the internship to ensure it is in compliance and that the event "will not be repeated".

Apple said specialists are on site working with management to ensure proper standards are followed.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2017, with the headline 'China interns work illegal hours on iPhone X'. Print Edition | Subscribe