Foxconn Technology Group, the world’s largest manufacturer of electronics, said it found interns as young as 14 had worked at a facility in Yantai in northeastern China, confirming a report by an advocacy group.
A company investigation found the interns, who ranged in age from 14 to 16, worked at the campus for about three weeks, Foxconn said in an e-mailed response to Bloomberg News yesterday. A “small number” of interns sent by schools and employed at Yantai over the summer were 14 to 16 years of age, according to a statement Oct. 15 from China Labor Watch.
The Yantai facility has “no association” with any work Foxconn does for Apple Inc. (AAPL), it said in another e-mail.
The underage interns add to labor issues during the past three years that include suicides, riots and strikes at Foxconn facilities in China, where the company employs more than 1 million workers. To improve working conditions, Chairman Terry Gou raised pay and allowed inspections by outside observers.
“Any Foxconn employee found, through our investigation, to be responsible for these violations will have their employment immediately terminated,” Foxconn said in the first e-mail. “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.”
One of the company’s factories in Zhengzhou, China, lost two shifts on Oct. 5 after workers became frustrated trying to prevent scratching on the casings of the Apple’s iPhone 5. A brawl involving 2,000 workers at a Foxconn plant in northern China’s Taiyuan last month halted production. The company’s plants had at least 10 suicides in 2010.
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook brought his company into the Washington-based Fair Labor Association in January, leading to inspections of Foxconn’s plants, after the suicides highlighted conditions at the supplier.
The schools which sent the underage interns to the Yantai campus should take primary responsibility, China Labor Watch said. Foxconn, which sent the interns back to those schools, is also culpable for not confirming their ages, the group said.
Taipei-based Foxconn has hired more than 300,000 people in inland China since 2010.
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