TAIPEI Oct 17 Foxconn Technology Group, the
world's largest contract electronics maker, has acknowledged
hiring teenagers as young as 14 in a Chinese factory, in breach
of national law, in a case that raises further questions over
its student intern programme.
Labour rights activists in China have accused Foxconn and
other big employers in China of using student interns as a cheap
source of labour for production lines where it is more difficult
to attract young adult workers to lower paid jobs.
Foxconn, the trading name of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision
Industry, said it had found some interns at a plant in
Yantai, in northeastern Shandong province, were under the legal
working age of 16. It did not say how many were underage.
"Our investigation has shown that the interns in question,
who ranged in age from 14 to 16, had worked in that campus for
approximately three weeks," it said in a statement on Tuesday.
"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 is Apple Inc's largest manufacturing
partner, and also makes products for Dell Inc, Sony
Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co among its other
clients. It said the Yantai plant does not make Apple products.
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 programme
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.
Foxconn and Apple have been forced to improve working
conditions at Chinese factories that make most of the world's
iPads and iPhones after a series of well-publicised suicides in
2010 and reports of labour abuses, such as excessive overtime,
threw a spotlight on conditions inside the plants.
Last month, a riot broke out at a Foxconn plant assembling
iPhones in the northern city of Taiyuan over living conditions
inside Foxconn's on-site dormitories for migrant workers.
In response to the scrutiny, Foxconn plans to cut overtime
to less than nine hours a week from the current 20.
It defended its intern programme on Tuesday, saying they
made up only 2.7 percent of its workforce in China. Internships
could be long-term or short-term, carried out in cooperation
with vocational schools and other educational institutions.
The average internship lasted about three-and-a-half months,