Foxconn Probe Finds Underage Workers

Oct 16, 2012 8:06am

Morning Business Memo:

Underage employees as young as 14 have been found working as interns at a big Foxconn factory in China. The firm that manufactures Apple’s iPhone and many other products says the discovery was made during an company investigation at its factory in the eastern city of Yantai. The underage interns were sent back to their schools. China’s minimum legal working age is 16. The finding is the latest embarrassment for Foxconn, which faced allegations of poor working conditions, long hours, and low pay for its employees. The firm was the subject of an ABC News Nightline investigation in February.

Foxconn, owned by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., said it was investigating with schools how the interns were sent to its factory. It didn’t say how many underage interns it found. “We recognize that full responsibility for these violations rests with our company and we have apologized to each of the students for our role in this action,” Foxconn said in a statement.  ”Any Foxconn employee found, through our investigation, to be responsible for these violations will have their employment immediately terminated.”

Foxconn produces iPhones and iPads for Apple Inc. and assembles products for Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. The company gave no indication what products were made in facilities where the interns worked. A labor rights group, China Labor Watch, said in a statement that primary responsibility lay with schools involved but “Foxconn is also culpable for not confirming the ages of their workers.”

Another temporary boost for the jobs market comes from Amazon.com. The largest online retailer is getting ready for the holiday shopping season, and says it’s hiring 50,000 temporary workers at order-fulfillment centers across the U.S. this holiday season. The Seattle-based online retailer says it expects “thousands” of those it hires to stay on full time. Full-time workers get stock grants and benefits. The company says its full-time employees make 30 percent more than traditional retail employees.

Many consumers may notice a change at the mall during the busy holiday shopping season. More retailers are offering free Wi-Fi connections, targeting shoppers with smart phones. “Retailers have really turned a corner on embracing the power of the mobile phone in the hands of the consumers,” says retail consultant Alison Kenney Paul with Deloitte. “They’re really using mobile communication as a mainstream marketing tool.” Retailers hope shoppers with smartphones will spend money in the store, not online. “When you do login in to the local Wi-Fi there will be a message from that retailer themselves.” It may offer personal discounts or coupons targeted to an individual consumer’s shopping habits.

California’s first-in-the-nation mandate requiring petroleum refiners and ethanol producers to make cleaner fuels faces an important court test today. At issue before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the constitutionality of the law. Out-of-state oil refiners and biofuels producers claim it will give an unfair advantage to in-state fuels producers.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio ABCNews.com twitter.com/daviesabc

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