Hundreds, possibly thousands of Chinese students are being taken from their classes and being forced to work on Foxconn assembly lines. Foxconn is currently under extreme pressure to step up production of the forthcoming iPhone 5.
China worker watchdogs, and more recently official Chinese media, have reported on the use of impressed student labor, said The New York Times recently. The students are primarily from vocational schools, but according to The Times, "Articles in the Chinese press reported that some schools in Huai'an were closed so that students could work in Foxconn plants, and that students said they were forced to work 12 hours a day. Some of the students are said to have come from the law and English departments."
Two labor groups, the New York-based China Labor Watch and Hong Kong's Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, (SACOM) interviewed dozens of students who had been "told they cannot leave, that they must work or they will be dismissed from school."
"The university told us it's a good way to experience corporate culture," a 19-year-old student told China Daily newspaper. "Even though many of my classmates are reluctant to go to Foxconn, our teachers still asked us to work there starting in August."
Speed Matters has covered the story of abuse of labor in Apple suppliers and other technology contractors. Last winter, Apple brought in the Fair Labor Association, an industry-funded watchdog, which catalogued abuses and imposed remedies. But, as this latest story indicates, without strong and independent unions on the floor, no watchdog, however committed, can keep track of abuses in a vast factory system.
China Contractor Again Faces Labor Issue on iPhones (NY Times, Sep. 10, 2012)
China Labor Watch (website)
The Hong Kong activists who've taken on Apple (Speed Matters, January 30, 2012)