China economy

Foxconn says student overtime on iPhone X was voluntary but broke its own rules

Interns were ‘compensated appropriately’ but factory involved breached policy that they can’t work more than 40 hours per week, according to manufacturer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 8:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 9:17pm

Foxconn Technology Group, which assembles Apple’s iPhone and other gadgets, on Wednesday said overtime by interns at its factory in Zhengzhou was “voluntary and compensated appropriately”.

The manufacturer was responding to a Financial Times report accusing the plant of using students working illegal overtime to cope with iPhone X production.

According to the report, about 3,000 local vocational school students aged 17 to 19 were being compelled to routinely work 11-hour days assembling the iPhone X at the factory in Henan province.

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Under Chinese labour law, it is illegal to compel or force people to work overtime, or not provide sufficient compensation for overtime. But it is legal if an employee, including an intern, is willing to work overtime, provided it is within the set limits and is compensated accordingly.

Foxconn said in a statement that its internal policy was that interns could not work more than 40 hours per week, but that policy had been breached.

“Unfortunately, there have been a number of cases where parts of our campuses have not adhered to this policy,” it said. “We have investigated all of these cases and confirmed that while all work was voluntary and compensated appropriately, the interns did work overtime in violation of our policy.”

Foxconn added that it had taken action to ensure “this will not be repeated”, without giving details.

It did not name the factory or vocational schools involved, nor did it name any individuals or divisions that had violated the company policy.

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Apple meanwhile said on Wednesday that it had taken “prompt action” to put a stop to the overtime by students when it found out about it.

“We’ve confirmed the students worked voluntarily, were compensated and provided benefits, but they should not have been allowed to work overtime,” Apple said in a statement.

“When we found that some students were allowed to work overtime, we took prompt action. A team of specialists is on site at the facility working with the management on systems to ensure the appropriate standards are adhered to.”

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It is not the first time that Foxconn has been in the spotlight for alleged mistreatment of workers and labour violations. The Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer, which employs about a million workers across China, is known for hiring students from vocational schools as temporary workers to help meet its production schedule. The company said such internship programmes provided students with “the opportunity to gain practical work experience and on-the-job training in a number of areas of our operations”.

In 2012, the company was found to have hired 56 teenagers – aged between 14 and 16 – at its factory in Shandong province. The labour law stipulates that such workers must be aged over 16. The underage workers were students at local technical training colleges and had been taken on as interns.

It came after a research report was released in 2009 claiming Foxconn forced its assembly-line workers to do overtime that was double or triple the legal limit and frequently employed teenage students. The report was put together by 20 universities from Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland.

The maximum for overtime per day under the labour law is three hours – meaning the total working day should not exceed 11 hours. The total for a month is limited to 36 hours, and overtime pay should be at least 150 per cent of the normal wage.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse