FLA Overlooked Foxconn’s ‘Forced And Bogus’ Internships, Campaigners Say

A Hong Kong-based campaign group has accused the Fair Labor Association (FLA) of playing down the issue of forced internships in its Apple-invoked investigation of Foxconn’s factories.

Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom) claimed the Chinese company uses student interns as “flexible labour” during the peak production seasons in the summer and winter holiday periods, sometimes against their wishes.

Intern abuse

In the FLA’s report, it noted that internship agreements were in place between Foxconn, vocational schools, and their students and would last between three and six months. The investigation found that in 2011 2.7 percent of the total workforce at Foxconn was made up of interns, averaging 27,000 per month with an average tenure of 3.5 months. In August, during the summer peak, interns formed 5.7 percent of the workforce.

The FLA says that interns are not meant to work more than eight hours per day, five days a week, and never for seven days straight, but found several instances where they had previously worked night shifts and overtime in violation of regulations.

The organisation’s remedial plan regarding interns addresses necessary safety precautions and minimum wage requirements, but Sacom claims it does not tackle allegations that internships were sometimes forced onto students.

“Vocational school students majoring in subjects such as tourism, language and journalism often end up with ‘internships’ at Foxconn for three to 12 months,” Sacom said. “Sometimes, punishment will be imposed if the students refused the irrelevant internship at Foxconn.”

While the FLA’s plan deals with one problem by telling Foxconn to “coordinate with the sending schools and colleges to ensure that the job relates to the interns’ field of study”, the Guardian reports that students who failed to comply with the internship program were told they would not be allowed to graduate.

Students from a vocational school in Zhengzhou were allegedly told to work “as ordered by the provincial government” or face being kicked out, according the China Daily. Such schools are referred to as “labour agencies” by some students.

“These students should be studying, but rather they now work 10 hours a day, six to seven days a week, taking on night shifts for months at a time, equivalent to adult workers,” said Debby Cheng, project officer of Sacom. “[The FLA] tried to water down the problem. They used the word ‘controversial’ without mentioning that these students were forced to work at Foxconn.”

Jiten Karia

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