An official from the Hong Kong-based Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) has claimed that Foxconn transferred and hid a number of underage workers prior to a probe conducted by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) into working conditions at the company, website Sohu.com reports.
Debby Sze Wan Chan, a project officer with SACOM, revealed that two Foxconn workers in south China's city of Shenzhen told her last week that the underage workers are aged between 16 and 17. Some of them were transferred from assembly lines to other departments, while the rest are not required to work overtime any more.
Foxconn is primarily an original design manufacturer and its clients include Apple, Nokia and Sony. But the company has been involved in several controversies of late, mostly related to how it manages employees in China.
Apple authorized the FLA probe after reports unveiled severe working conditions in Foxconn plants in China.
According to Apple's norms, its suppliers can hire 16-18 years old workers if it's locally legal, but the employers need to take special measures to ensure such workers carry out certain categories of jobs and do not work excessive hours.
But Chan said the big clients of Foxconn, such as Apple, should also be held responsible for the problem.
"The problem isn't that Apple doesn't know the real situation at their suppliers," Chan said. "Most of the time, the workers are aware of the presence of Apple's representatives inside the factories. They know the truth, but they don't care."
Chan said that after two years trying to contact Apple, she has never received a response. Chan doubts Apple CEO Tim Cook's commitments that Apple will strive to improve conditions at its suppliers' factories.
"Only pressure from consumers can urge Apple to change the situation, since as with other companies, Apple's goal is to maximize profits, and minimize its responsibility," Chan stated.
SACOM is a non-governmental organization established in 2005. It aims to improve the working conditions and welfare of workers and has been engaged in monitoring well-known enterprises in the Pearl River Delta which they describe as "blood and tears factories."