Why lie? Forget a plea bargain, if there’s enough evidence, you might as well admit it and hope for leniency.
That’s what Foxconn, the plagued Taiwanese electronics maker, did after minors were found working in one of its factories. After the pro-labor group China Labor Watch reported children as young as 14 assembled Nintendo’s Wii U console, the controversial tech supplier admitted earlier this week that it employed underage workers at its Yantai factory in northeast China.
Keep reading for Foxconn’s unedited response.
It’s a little hard to believe that Foxconn made the admission at all, so I contacted Foxconn. What I got was a detailing of the situation, which the company characterized as isolated to Yantai and amounted to a few students, who Foxconn calls interns, working for school credits.
China Labor Watch disagrees. It says there were more than 2,000 students and that they were forced to work night and overtime shifts, allegedly under threat of being denied school graduation if they quit.
While admitting fault, Foxconn also insinuates it has been the victim of schools, which the company says are responsible for certifying work qualifications, and teachers, who ignored Foxconn policies.
This is another in a string of labor issues at Foxconn facilities. The company still seems uncertain whether a recent large worker disturbance at its Chinese Apple-products factory in Taiyuan was a riot or a strike.
Below is the Foxconn response to the child-labor controversy in its entirety.
Statement from Foxconn Technology Group
October 15, 2012
An internal investigation carried out by our company has confirmed media reports in China that some participants in the short-term student internship program that is administered at our campus in Yantai, Shandong Province, are under the legal working age of 16 years. This is not only a violation of China’s labor 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. We are also carrying out a full investigation, in cooperation with the respective educational institutions, to determine how this happened and the actions that must be taken by our company to ensure that it can never happen again.
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. We have found no evidence of similar violations in any of our other campuses in China but we will not hesitate to take immediate action in any campus if any violations are discovered.
In addition to returning the students to their educational institution, Foxconn will work with the local government to ensure that the future participation of these schools in the internship program is only done after it has been determined that they are in compliance with China’s labor law and Foxconn policies. 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. Furthermore, any Foxconn employee found, through our investigation, to be responsible for these violations will have their employment immediately terminated.
Foxconn has long had a short-term internship program that we carry out in cooperation with a number of vocational schools and other educational institutions in China. The internship programs range from three to six months in duration with the average being 3.5 months. Interns represent approximately 2.7 percent of our workforce of 1.2 million employees in China.
While we provide vocational schools with our qualification requirements, it is the schools that recruit the students under the supervision of the relevant local government and the schools also assign teachers to accompany and monitor the students throughout their internship program. In addition to allowing the students to gain relevant industry experience while earning the same industry-competitive compensation as our full-time entry-level workers, this program gives Foxconn an opportunity to identify participants who have the potential to be excellent full-time employees should they wish to join our company upon graduation from their vocational school.
However, the goals of this program are not met when China’s labor laws and Foxconn’s employment policies are not respected which has happened in this case.
Photo by Tim Quijano