- Hundreds of Chinese schoolchildren have been recruited to work long and often illegal hours in a factory that makes Amazon‘s Alexa devices, China Labour Watch has found.
- The labour-rights group’s investigation found that more than 1,000 children ages 16 to 18 were employed as “interns” at a Foxconn factory in Hengyang.
- While Chinese factories are allowed to employ students ages 16 or over, these students are not allowed to work nights or overtime.
- In a statement emailed to Business Insider, Foxconn acknowledged that students had been employed illegally and said it was taking immediate action to rectify the situation.
- Amazon said it was “urgently investigating” the allegations and addressing them with Foxconn at the most senior level.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Hundreds of Chinese schoolchildren have been recruited to work long and often illegal hours in a factory that makes Amazon’s Alexa devices, according to China Labour Watch.
The labour-rights group’s investigation, which was first reported by The Guardian, unearthed evidence showing that more than 1,000 children ages 16 to 18 were employed as “interns” at a Foxconn factory in Hengyang, in central China.
While Chinese factories are allowed to employ students ages 16 or over, these students are not allowed to work nights or overtime, according to China Labour Watch.
The documents also showed that schools were paid to send students to the factories and teachers were asked to encourage them to work overtime, despite some students not wanting to.
“Night-shift line leaders should check in with student interns and teachers more often, and report back any abnormal situation so that teachers can persuade students to work night shifts and overtime,” according to notes from a recent human-resources meeting at the factory, reviewed by China Labour Watch.
If children refused to work the additional hours, teachers were told to file a resignation letter on their behalf, the meeting notes indicated.
Xiao Fang, a 17-year-old studying computing, started work on the Amazon Echo production line last month and was given the job of applying a protective film to about 3,000 Echo Dots each day.
She told researchers that her teacher initially said she would be working eight hours a day, five days a week but that this had since changed to 10 hours a day (including two hours of overtime) for six days a week.
“In the beginning, I wasn’t very used to working at the factory, and now, after working for a month, I have reluctantly adapted to the work,” she said in an interview with China Labour Watch researchers. “But working 10 hours a day, every day, is very tiring.”
Xiao said her teacher pushed her into working the longer hours by saying if she didn’t, it would affect her graduation and chances of getting a scholarship after.
“I tried telling the manager of my line that I didn’t want to work overtime,” she said. “But the manager notified my teacher and the teacher said if I didn’t work overtime, I could not intern at Foxconn and that would affect my graduation and scholarship applications at the school.”
“I had no choice, I could only endure this,” she added.
Amazon sends a team to investigate labour conditions
In a statement emailed to Business Insider, Foxconn acknowledged that students had been employed illegally and that it was taking immediate action to rectify the situation. It maintained that its internship program was set up to give students practical work experience, however. The firm said:
“We have doubled the oversight and monitoring of the internship program with each relevant partner school to ensure that, under no circumstances, will interns are allowed to work overtime or nights.
“There have been instances in the past where lax oversight on the part of the local management team has allowed this to happen and, while the impacted interns were paid the additional wages associated with these shifts, this is not acceptable and we have taken immediate steps to ensure it will not be repeated.”
Amazon said in a statement emailed to Business Insider that it “does not tolerate violations of its Supplier Code of Conduct” and was “urgently investigating these allegations and addressing this with Foxconn at the most senior level.” It also said it sent a team of specialists out to the factory on Thursday to investigate.
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