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Foxconn: We're not FORCING interns to make iPhone 5

They are making it of their own free will

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The production line turning out iPhone 5s at Foxconn will be manned by willing interns only, said the Chinese company in a statement, rebutting stories last week that the new mobe was being pieced together by conscripted work experience kids.

Newspaper China Daily had alleged last week that trainee primary school teachers and English students in Huai'an, Jiangsu province were being made to assemble USB cables for the new iPhone in Foxconn as a compulsory part of their course at the Open University of Huai'an.

But Foxconn retorted that the internships at its factories are optional and that interns can leave at any time.

"The internship programs range in length from one to six months and students are free to leave the internship program at any time," said the Samsung, Nokia and Apple kit maker.

The interns - from vocational schools that have chosen to partner with Foxconn - are paid 1,550 yuan (£153) a month: a basic rate for workers in the region.

In the China Daily report, a 19-year-old student named only as "Song" was quoted by the paper as saying that she could not get the credit needed for graduation if she refused the Foxconn experience. "The university told us it's a good way to experience corporate culture. Even though many of my classmates are reluctant to go to Foxconn, our teachers still asked us to work there starting in August."

Foxconn's use of interns has come under criticism before, with exactly the same points being made to Tim Cook in March this year by human rights group SACOM.

In the statement this week, Foxconn has retorted that it is the schools which select the students and that the work can be beneficial for the youngsters as well as lead to full-time jobs.

Apparently pressure to prepare the iPhone 5 for launch has put stress on the factories and meant that the manufacturers are leaning more heavily on their workers. An anonymous source quoted by China Daily said:

The high demand for the handset has led to us being short-staffed at the plant. It's been even worse since some people finished their summer jobs and left.

Foxconn said that all interns were of legal working age – in China that's 16 – and that the interns make up an average of 2.7 per cent of its workforce in China. ®

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