While many of us love to have the latest gadgets, there’s a lot of conflict around how they are made — and whether assembly line workers are treated ethically. One of the most well-known factories, Foxconn, is under fire once again, as a Chinese paper has accused it of partnering with a college to bring student “interns” on as free factory labor.
A report by Chinese tabloid Oriental Daily has accused the Xi’an Institute of Technology of sending “more than one thousand” of its IT students to Foxconn as “interns.” But instead of gaining experience in their field of choice, the students are sent to work on the factory assembly line, putting together PlayStation 4 consoles. Students told Oriental Daily that they have been told if they want to quit, they would effectively lose “course credits” and would not be able to graduate. There is no indication that the students are even compensated for their work.
The article says that students are forced to work 11-hour days, with two ten minute breaks and a few meal periods. An accounting student is tasked with gluing together parts of the PlayStation 4, while a science major stuffs cords and manuals into an endless array of boxes. While the students say they cannot leave, Foxconn gave a written interview that says differently.
“Foxconn has no power and no ability to require any person to enforce the internship.”
According to the Games in Asia blog, the Xi’an Institute of Technology freely and openly admits to its internship program with Foxconn, and reports the students success on the factory line. But the specifics are a bit murky — Oriental Daily charges the university with profiting off of its students by collecting agency fees for their work, but neither Foxconn nor the university would confirm or clarify the terms of the partnership.
If the report is to be believed, then it’s clear that American technological companies are still struggling with keeping their foreign factories compliant with labor ethics. It’s a tangled situation — one where a company can happily accept completed orders to meet growing demand and easily look the other way at labor standards.