Foxconn has defended itself against charges that the company is forcing teenagers to assemble iPhones, saying it's okay to have underage workers put in 12-hour days because they can leave if they want. As proof that it's in the clear, Foxconn points to a "recent" Fair Labor Association audit that found "no evidence that any interns were pressured to participate," the manufacturer explained Foxconn in an e-mail to Bloomberg News. Those "recent" audits -- during which Foxconn was on its best behavior, some argue -- happened back in March. Not only does that not say anything about the current situation, but also, that explanation doesn't account for everything going on.
The student complaints allege that officials had classes suspended and then bussed them over to Foxconn to work on the upcoming iPhone, interns told Shanghai Daily. Since then, they have worked 12-hour days, six days a week, for $243.97, say some students. "MengniuIQ84 wrote [on Weibo] that the authorities had ordered the schools to send students to assist Foxconn but said that the factory neither informed parents nor signed agreements with students," according to the Shanghai Daily. One parent told China Daily she doesn't understand why her daughter, who is studying preschool education, would have an internship at the factory during the school year. "I don't mind if my daughter finds a part-time job during the summer vacation," Wang Yang said. "But spending school hours on such nonsense is a waste of time."
Foxconn isn't denying any of that, but says nothing is forced since these students have free will to leave. But where would they go? School has been suspended in light of the ramped-up production for the new phone, which Apple will likely announce next week and ship not too longer after that. Students have also suggested it's not in their best interests to up and leave the program. "Protesting these internships, many students fear, would put their diplomas in jeopardy," wrote MotherBoard's Alex Pasternack, who also wrote a lengthy expose on the "dirty secret" last February. (In it he explains why students would rather go to school than do low-paid, uninsured factory work that has nothing to do with their studies.) As Foxconn suggests, there might not be "pressure to stay"—there's just a lot of pressure not to leave.