Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) is investigating reports that Foxconn has coerced children into working night shifts and overtime to produce Amazon Echo and Kindle devices in violation of Chinese labor laws. China Labor Watch has launched an investigation into the matter and an Amazon spokesperson said the company has already sent additional teams of specialists to audit the situation. Foxconn has reportedly acknowledged the issue.
According to reports based on interviews with workers and leaked documents, a Foxconn facility located in the southern Chinese city of Hengyang hired more than 1,500 “interns” between the ages of 16 and 18 to assemble Amazon’s devices to meet production targets. The interns were recruited from vocational schools and were paid about $1.42 per hour to assemble roughly 60,000 devices a month. Teachers at those schools received a $425 subsidy from the factory, and schools themselves were given $0.42 for each hour an intern worked.
The students said that they were initially told they would be working eight hours a day for five days a week. Many ended up working ten to twelve hours a day and if they complained or resisted, that they were told that it would affect their graduation and scholarship applications at the school. While Chinese labor laws do allow companies to hire teenagers that are over 16 years old to work in manufacturing, they explicitly prohibit overtime and night shifts.
This is not the first time Foxconn has been mired in controversy over its labor practices. In 2017, the company was accused of coercing some of its 3,000 student interns into working 11-hour days to assemble iPhone X devices for Apple. The manufacturing company also caused headaches for Sony when it was preparing to launch one of its consoles.
Amazon has been criticized in the past over working conditions at its suppliers, especially when it comes to safety and pay levels. An Amazon spokesperson said in a statement, “We do not tolerate violations of our Supplier Code of Conduct. We regularly assess suppliers, using independent auditors as appropriate, to monitor continued compliance and improvement – if we find violations, we take appropriate steps, including requesting immediate corrective action. We are urgently investigating these allegations and addressing this with Foxconn at the most senior level.”