Editor's note: GlobalPost featured this article in "Great Weekend Reads," a free compilation of the week's most colorful stories. To receive Great Weekend Reads by e-mail, let us know at email@example.com.
Silicon Sweatshops is an ongoing GlobalPost investigation into the complex supply chains that produce some of our most precious, high-tech gadgets.
BEIJING, China — Beleaguered electronics giant Foxconn has refuted a newly published report from Chinese academics that alleges serious labor violations and worker abuses at its Chinese factories, saying it takes labor laws and workers’ rights very seriously.
“Foxconn Technology Group strongly and categorically rejects reports in the Chinese and international media that are attributed to research by academics and students alleging worker abuse, illegal labor practices, and unsafe working conditions at our operations in China,” the Taiwan-based company said in an emailed statement Tuesday.
The statement came in response to a 90-page report from academics and students at China’s top universities, based on two months of surveys and research into 12 Foxconn factories in China. The report, which surveyed nearly 1,800 factory workers in China, charged that the company failed to address serious problems with working conditions and other labor issues, including misuse of student interns, rampant illegal overtime and violence against employees.
Foxconn is the world’s largest manufacturer of electronics, and makes best-selling gadgets like iPads and smart phones for the world’s top tech companies, from Apple and Sony to HP and Nokia. The company, which has nearly 1 million workers in China, has been under fire for months over working conditions following a spate of suicide at its Shenzhen plants this year.
The new report, issued Tuesday but leaked to Global Post and Chinese media earlier, alleged, among other things, that Foxconn did not produce pay raises and other changes promised in the wake of the suicides. Foxconn did not respond to earlier requests for comment on the academics’ scathing charges, but in this statement addressed the new allegations point-by-point.
The company said it has, in fact, raised minimum worker wages for 85 percent of its workforce, with the remaining 15 percent yet to pass required performance evaluations.
The academics’ report said Foxconn workers reported repeated overtime law violations, routinely working more than double the number of legally allowed overtime hours each month. The company, however, said actual average overtime hours are clearly in line with local labor laws and that workers can legally request variances in overtime limits.
On the dicey issue of intern labor, the academics’ report charged Foxconn with misusing student laborers to circumvent paying full wages and benefits, but treating tens of thousands of interns as regular employees, in defiance of regulations.
The company said its interns, legally hired through partnerships with vocational schools, make up 7.6 percent of its China workforce and their employment is in accordance with labor laws.
“While we have found a small number of incidents where interns have voluntarily and legally worked overtime hours, we are working hard to institute a ban on any overtime work by interns and we are in the process of ensuring that this important policy is enforced across all of our operations,” the company said.
Overall, Foxconn said it is “committed to continuing to contribute to the economy of the cities where we operate and respecting all government laws and regulations… and to cooperating with accredited labor unions to address issues that are raised regarding any employee matters.”
Silicon Sweatshops: The series
Special Report: Silicon Sweatshops
The China connection
A promising model
Silicon Sweatshops: An illness in Suzhou
Silicon Sweatshops: Small signs of progress