HP has introduced a series of new measures in China to cut down on potential abuses of student and temporary workers among its manufacturing partners in the country.
Those two labor groups are often used to cope with peak production times — last year Foxconn was said to have brought in ‘intern’ workers as it fought staff shortages ahead of the iPhone 5 launch — and The New York Times reports that the computing giant is clamping down on the issue.
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The firm has stipulated that workers must be employed voluntarily, and all must be free to “leave work at any time upon reasonable notice without negative repercussions, and they must have access to reliable and reprisal-free grievance mechanisms”.
Foxconn came under fire for reportedly bringing in hundreds of students from nearby universities to help build iPhone 5 units, and companies are thought to produce ‘tea money’ for administrators that sanction such moves. This kind of mass recruitment is now outlawed by HP’s new regulations which state that a student’s work “must complement the primary area of study”. That means that only those who study manufacturing, electronics or other related subjects will be eligible for work.
The company will also cap the ratio of students and temporary workers to a maximum of 20 percent of the workforce, although it told the NYT that it has plans to reduce that to 10 percent in the long term.
The new regulations go beyond steps that Apple and other tech firms have taken to make their Chinese partners more accountable. The iPhone-maker conducted its first third-party investigation into its Chinese manufacturing business last year — via the Fair Labor Association — and it recently asked its supply chain partners to begin providing details of student workers alongside the existing data that it tracks for permanent employees.
Apple-partner Foxconn is regularly criticized for its treatment of workers in China. The Taiwanese-headquartered firm employs more than 1 million staff there and it says that it is actively working to eradicate child labor from its factories. That comes after an admission last year that it had breached its own policy by employing workers as young as 14-years-old at non-Apple manufacturing plants.
Apple is not alone in facing issues in China. A recent report from Samsung — which runs its own manufacturing operations in the country — found examples of inadequate working conditions, but no evidence of child labor at its factories. It remains to be seen if others will follow HP’s lead and tighten their regulations accordingly.
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