There have always been rumors of child labor surrounding iPhones and other products produced by the company Hengyang Foxconn, but a recent report from the China Labor Watch (CLW) says that many schoolchildren are allegedly working incredibly long hours to meet Amazon Echo production goals.
Under Chinese labor laws, factories can employ students age 16 or older as interns. These students are not allowed to work nights or overtime. However, the laws surrounding working conditions are often ignored in these factories. According to the report, for “interns who refuse to work overtime and night shifts, the factory requests teachers from their school to fire them.”
Many of these interns come from vocational schools like Sinosteel Hengyang Heavy Machinery Workers Technical College, the Hengyang Industrial Workers College, and the Hengyang Technician College. For the students attending these colleges, there is no option except to work the required shifts. Failing to do so means not graduating. There are even reports of teachers physically assaulting interns to “motivate” them to meet demand.
Benefits for interns have lessened in the past year. In 2018, interns would receive a living stipend and employment rewards, but interns in 2019 are not eligible for either of these. Interns are paid roughly $1.42 per hour, or about $248 per month — a decrease from the 2018 rate of $276 per month.
According to the report, the factory provides a subsidy of $425 per month to teachers that force students to work overtime shifts. The factory also paid the schools roughly $0.42 per hour, per person in subsidies. The report states that workers are restricted to only 60 hours per week, but when a large number of orders come in this hour restriction is lifted in order to meet demand.
Chinese labor laws have provisions regarding repetitive motion in hunched positions. This is designed to protect workers from positions that might result in injury or harm later in life, but the report found that interns at Foxconn kept “their head down for an extended period of time” and engaged in monotonous, repetitive tasks.
Foxconn claimed the issue lay with individual schools and “doubled the oversight and monitoring of the internship program with each relevant partner school.” An Amazon spokesperson told Fox News they would “crack down on any violations of its code of conduct for suppliers.”
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