Apple is doing damage control today after reports that high school students were working illegal overtime on the iPhone X assembly line. You might even be able to guess which supplier operates the plant they were working at—and not because the list of iPhone X assemblers is so short.

iphone x assembly line
Image Source: Apple.com (screenshot)

Trouble on the iPhone X assembly line

Six students who were working at Foxconn’s factory in Zhengzhou, China told the Financial Times that they “routinely” work 11 hours a day on the iPhone X assembly line. According to Chinese law, high school students are not allowed to work that many hours. The six students were all working at Foxconn on internships.

In fact, they say that there are about 3,000 students in total from the Zhengzhou Urban Rail Transit School who have been working there on internships since September. The six students are between the ages of 17 and 19, and they told the Financial Times that three months working in the factory was mandatory “work experience” that was needed to graduate.

Ms. Yang, who wouldn’t give her first name because she was concerned about being punished, told the newspaper that she was learning to work as a train attendant. She also said that they “are being forced” by their school to work at the factory, adding that her work on the iPhone X assembly line “has nothing to do with our studies.” She assembles up to 1,200 cameras for the iPhone X daily.

Apple and Foxconn respond

Although the students’ school refused to comment on the report, both Foxconn and Apple told the FT that they did discover that some students were working extra hours on the iPhone X assembly line or in the factory. The companies said that they are taking action.

However, they denied that the students who were working overtime were being forced to do so. They said that the extra hours were taken on voluntarily. Apple told the media outlet that it was aware that student interns were “working overtime at a supplier factory in China.” The company also said that it had “confirmed the students were working voluntarily, were compensated and provided benefits,” although the students “should not have been allowed to work overtime.”

Foxconn corroborated Apple’s statement but added that the student interns who worked overtime violated company policies, which state that students may not work more than 40 hours each week.

iPhone X assembly line running behind schedule

It comes as little surprise that this report centers on the iPhone X assembly line more than any other part of Foxconn’s operations. Apple’s suppliers have been struggling to churn out enough units to meet the strong demand, and with the busy holiday shopping season now upon us, this demand is only going to get greater. It’s standard operating procedure for Foxconn to take on a lot of extra workers during busy times of the year, but apparently, the number of workers needed this year was much larger, a Foxconn employee told the FT.

It also comes as no surprise that the labor complaint comes from workers at a Foxconn factory. Although it’s been years since any serious allegations like this have come out, Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision, has been in trouble multiple times in the past. Pegatron, which also assembles some iPhone models, has also gotten in trouble for labor violations in years past.

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