We’ve written before about high school and vocational college students being coerced into grueling factory work for HTC and key Apple suppliers, Foxconn; it’s clearly an exploitable grey area in Chinese labor law. Today The New York Times reports that HP (NYSE:HPQ) is now imposing rules on its suppliers over usage of such student workers in factories.
HP will mandate that Chinese students of age may go onto factory lines for temporary periods so long as the work “must complement the primary area of study” of that individual. Plus, according to HP, the vocational worker must be free “to leave work at any time upon reasonable notice without negative repercussions, and they must have access to reliable and reprisal-free grievance mechanisms.”
These student intern workers are often in demand by factories during peak periods such as summer vacations. This year, HP will also stipulate that student workers make up no more than 20 percent of labor at a plant. Tony Prophet, HP’s senior VP for worldwide supply chain operations, told the paper that the company plans to reduce the ratio to 10 percent at an undecided future point.
Apple has also said that it’s putting pressure on manufacturers on this issue. Student workers from schools and colleges, mixed with corruption and fake IDs, sometimes lead to child labor where the worker is under 16, which is a specific problem that Apple is tackling with its recent joining of the Fair Labor Association. Apple’s most recent supplier report highlighted one Chinese supplier that had a shocking 74 underage workers.
Of course, both corporate rules and labor laws can be bent and broken when corruption comes into play, with some dubious manufacturers bribing school principles to shepherd students onto factory lines for temporary work even though it might be irrelevant to their college course.
Foxconn is one of HP’s final assembly manufacturers, so Foxconn will, in theory, be held to these new rules.
(Source: New York Times)