No fewer than six high school students were “routinely required” to work 11-hour days assembling Apple’s iPhone X flagship at the Foxconn-owned assembly plant in Zhengzhou, China, according to a damning new report published by the Financial Times this week.
The students, whose ages range from 17 to 19, told the paper they were informed that a “three-month stint” working on the iPhone assembly line was a “work experience” requirement they had to fulfill in order to graduate from Zhengzhou Urban Rail Transit School.
“We are being forced by our school to work here,” said Ms. Yang, an 18-year-old student who requested that her real name be withheld for fear of punishment. “The work has nothing to do with our studies,” Ms. Yang added, noting that she’s currently training to become a train attendant. She claims to have typically assembled up to 1,200 iPhone X cameras a day.
In the wake of the shocking allegations, both Apple and Foxconn have respectively confirmed “instances of students working overtime,” according to the report, which added that both companies are currently taking action steps to remedy the situation.
“We’ve confirmed the students worked voluntarily, were compensated and provided benefits, but they should not have been allowed to work overtime,” Apple noted in a statement following its internal audit of the matter; while Foxconn in its admission echoed those sentiments, noting that while “all work was voluntary and compensated appropriately,” the interns “did work overtime in violation of our policy.”
Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Apple and Foxconn have been called out for their unsavory employment practices — which have historically focused on the schedules and otherwise impure working conditions faced by Foxconn’s factory workers in the Far East. Citing comments from one former assembly line worker, for example, the report added that at the height of iPhone manufacturing season, there can be as many as 300,000 workers assembling 20,000+ iPhones a day.
While certainly damning, the report also highlights the need for Apple and its partners to implement additional measures to protect their workers. For its part, the Cupertino-company has published an official supplier responsibility report, in which it specifically requires its partners like Foxconn and Pegatron to both limit working hours to 60 per week, while also providing workers one whole day off every seven days for rest.
Foxconn noted that its policies prohibit interns from working more than 40 hours per week, however the iPhone-builder acknowledged the policy violation and said it’s working with Apple to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.
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