AppleInsider reports that Foxconn shuffled employees around when inspectors from the Fair Labor Association recently took a tour of some of their facilities. A non-governmental labor rights group said that Foxconn relocated under-age workers to different areas of the plant during the tour before the FLA inspections commenced. This information comes from Debby Sze Wan Chan, a project officer from Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM).
"All underage workers, between 16-17 years old, were not assigned any overtime work and some of them were even sent to other departments," workers from the Foxconn factories reportedly told Chan.
Apple's "supplier code of conduct" does allow for workers 16- to 18-years-old to work at its plants, but it requires that certain rules be followed and certain special protections be given. From their code of conduct:
Preventing underage labor is only part of our efforts. We also monitor the treatment of workers who are old enough to work legally but are younger than 18. We don’t allow these workers to perform some types of work, even in cases where local laws allow it. Our standards also require factories to adhere to student labor laws and to ensure that schools and universities follow the laws as well, which is particularly important as factories increasingly turn to these institutions for student interns.
SACOM does not allege that Foxconn is hiding underage workers; they are simply saying that they moved older and younger workers around to avoid scrutiny from the FLA. The FLA is still conducting its inspection of the factories.
Chan seems concerned about the way Foxconn does business based on past experiences while visiting various plants. She recounted a recent trip to Foxconn facilities where workers said they feel like machines.
"The workers always tell us they resemble machines. Their regular day at Foxconn is waking up, queuing up for baths and work, work and go back to the dormitory and sleep. They do not have a social life and they are doing the same monotonous task in the factory for thousands of times a day. If they are not efficient enough or they make some mistakes, they will be yelled at by their supervisor or punished."
Hopefully the FLA will do a thorough inspection and help improve the lives of those poor souls that work at Foxconn. In the long run Apple and consumers have to examine the ethics of how products are made in regions like China to save money.