TUCHENG, China (CBS Seattle) – Foxconn, the Chinese company that builds electronic devices for Apple, is again under scrutiny for its labor practices.
The New York Times reports that the company is forcing 32,000 students to build iPhones or flunk out of local schools.
Foxconn, who employs 1.2 million workers, was facing a labor shortage with the construction of the highly anticipated iPhone 5. To make up for the shortage, local schools reportedly forced students to either work the assembly lines or not graduate.
Foxconn calls the students “interns” and denies the allegations that they are forcing students to work there.
Li Qiang, a labor advocate, told the New York Times that 10 out of 87 workers on the assembly lines are students that “don’t want to work there.”
“If they don’t work, they are told they will not graduate, because it is a very busy time with the new iPhone coming, and Foxconn does not have enough workers without the students,” Qiang told the Times.
Foxconn didn’t just allegedly force students with technical degrees onto the assembly lines, they forced law and English degree students as well.
In a statement to the Times, Foxconn said that the students make only 2.7 percent of the assembly workforce. Also, schools recruited the students “under the supervision of the local government” and that the schools assigned teachers “to accompany and monitor the students throughout their internship.”
Students and Scholars Against Corporat Misbehavior, a group that looked into Foxconn interns, says these students are learning nothing by being forced to make iPhones.
“When students enroll in vocational schools, they should receive a genuine education,” spokesperson Debby Chan Sze Wan told the Times. “Standing in a factory, doing the same motion for 10 hours a day, this is not an education. And they are told they cannot leave, that they must work or they will be dismissed from school.”
Foxconn’s Chinese factories have been a source of controversy for poor working conditions, particularly with the construction of Apple products, such as the iPhone and iPad, and most notably the rash of worker suicides between 2008 and 2010.
The iPhone 5 is expected to be announced Wednesday and supposed to go for around $600.
Forbes estimates the cost to construct the iPhone is $190.