Danish union blames Amazon for abuse of Chinese students

The Danish labour union 3F blames Amazon for the abuse of Chinese school kids who intern at Hengyang Foxconn manufacturing goods to be sold on Amazon.

Hengyang Foxconn recruited 1581 Chinese students aged 16-17 in July 2019 and currently more students are hired. Foxconn is the world’s largest manufacturer of electronics and produces products for Apple, Sony, Microsoft, Samsung and Amazon to name a few of the customers.

3F’s criticism is based on a report by China Labor Watch telling the tale of horrific working conditions for the young students. Due to large orders by Amazon interns are pressured to work overtime and during night time in straining positions such as keeping their head down for long periods.

It is against Chinese laws to arrange overtime and night time work for interns. Likewise, they are not allowed to work in straining positions. However, if the students object to the conditions, they are either fired or threatened to be.

According to Jesper Nielsen, head of 3F International, it is Amazon’s duty to make sure that the working conditions are satisfactory before they place an order.

“Amazon shouldn’t be surprised. Millions of interns are forced to work in factories in China where they don’t have the right to resist abuse. It happens in order to get cheap labour during times where it’s gotten more difficult to attract migrants from other parts of China to industrial areas,” Jesper Nielsen told til unions member magazine.

No other option

The internal documents reveal that Foxconn is making the students work overtime to complete orders on time. Foxconn therefore has the teachers pressure the students to comply with the factory’s demands. Teachers who are assigned the factory received $425 as a subsidy from the factory. The schools already receive $0.42 per hour an intern works.

“For interns who refuse to work overtime and night shifts, the factory requests teachers from their schools to fire them. Teachers often physically and verbally attack interns, and on July 30, many workers witnessed a teacher hitting an intern. The teacher aggressively grabbed the intern by the ear, did not let him swipe out of work and scolded him,” China Labor Watch writes.

Xiao Fang, a 17-year-old student, works at Foxconn 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, despite only being an intern. She gets paid $248 per month or $1.42/hour

“I tried to tell my boss that I wouldn’t work overtime. But then he told my teacher about it, who said that if I refused I could no longer complete my internship at Foxconn which would affect my chances of passing the exam. I had no choice,” the young girl, who’s name has been changed in the article for her safety, told China Labor Watch.

Student interns, sitting on backless stools hunched over their assembly line, must complete the same operation every 13 seconds, non-stop, cleaning 3,920 circuit boards in 14 hours. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlcnet/8000362580/)

Cutting labor costs

The Chinese law states that the total workforce isn’t allowed to exceed 10 percent of dispatch labour. However, according to China Labor Watch internal documents reveal that Foxconn were willing to break this rule during peak season.

China Labor Watch already discovered in 2018 that Foxconn was violating this law. However, it remains an issue despite promises to fix the breach.

“Despite being illegal, Foxconn still recruits a high number of dispatch workers and interns as a means to cut labor costs. China’s labor laws are also not strictly enforced,” Li Qiang, Executive Director of China Labor Watch, said.

It is unknown whether Amazon has known about the working conditions and violation of Chinese laws at Hengyang Foxconn.

They have however replied, that they have sent a team of specialists to the factory to investigate the allegations as well as initiating weekly audits.

Foxconn recognises there have been issue with local management but promises immediate action in order to prevent such incidents from happening again.



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