A report out of China says that classes have been suspended and students have been bussed to Foxconn factories as "interns" to help meet the demand for workers to build the new iPhone. While these internships are paid, the students must pay for room and board, and the work may or may not be related to their studies. Perhaps more seriously, some reports suggest that they may not have the freedom to leave.
Students from at least five institutions are reported to have been involved in the "program," according to the Shanghai Daily. Rather than classes resuming for the new semester, the students were recruited for the internships, disrupting courses and studies for up to two months. Some of the institutions mentioned include Huaiyin Institute of Technology, Jiangsu Institute of Finance and Economy, Huai'an University, among others, all believed to be in Huai'an in Jiangsu province.
The working conditions for these interns are reportedly 12 hour days / 6 days a week for which they are paid 1,550 yuan (US$244). However they are also expected to pay hundreds of yuan for room and board. They are working without signed agreements according to online posts from students at some of the involved universities.
The report said that Foxconn needed an additional 10,000 workers to meet the demand for the highly anticipated iPhone. Labor authorities are said to have ordered the schools to send students to assist. And one or two schools dropped out of the "program" when some bad PR aroused the public and put pressure on the practice.
It is also reported that some students had been punished for leaving. Whether this is because of overt threats or fear of retaliation is unclear. Students apparently considered the internships compulsory and feared losing credit or not being allowed to graduate if they did not participate.
Already some Chinese lawyers have indicated that this violates both higher education and labor laws. Foxconn, the schools, and labor authorities could be the subjects of lawsuits.
Apple has come under fire for labor practices in its factories and, more recently, Samsung has as well. The latest report from the Fair Labor Association reported better conditions than previously, but there were still improvements to be made. Mention was made of the internship program in the latest report issued by the FLA.
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