Foxconn is the world’s largest contract manufacturer and Apple’s favorite contractor. Its sweatshops in China are under a constant barrage of criticism regarding labor conditions. Apple and Foxconn have been working to cut long hours and increase wages (twice), but when you have to deal with a workforce of approximately one million individuals, it’s virtually impossible to deal with individual abuses that may occur.

Except, of course, that Foxconn has a pattern of underage labor and other serious workplace violations. Also, being the world’s biggest manufacturer doesn’t help because the media tends to zero in on Foxconn and Apple to make an example. The following story underscores how the two parties have not done nearly enough to prevent workplace abuses…

A story by The Wall Street Journal finds out that Foxconn itself acknowledged that it had employed interns “as young as 14” at its campus in Yantai, in the northeastern Chinese province of Shandong. Those kids were employed for approximately three weeks until Foxconn took “immediate steps” to return “the interns”, as they referred to them, to their educational institutions.

The company didn’t disclose specifics, including how many were hired, and it wasn’t clear what products are made at the plant. But it said in a statement that despite “a strict company policy of not commenting on our customers or their products,” that “our Yantai facility has no association with any work we carry out on behalf of Apple.”

Foxconn didn’t even bother checking the students’ IDs, can you imagine that?

The company issued this statement:

We have apologized to each of the students for our role in this action. Furthermore, any Foxconn employee found, through our investigation, to be responsible for these violations will have their employment immediately terminated.

To this, labor-rights organization China Labor Watch, which also found cases of child labor in Samsung plants, responded with this statement:

These underage interns were mainly sent to Foxconn by schools, but Foxconn did not check the IDs of these young interns. The schools involved in this incident should take primary responsible, but Foxconn is also culpable for not confirming the ages of their workers. China Labor Watch calls on the Chinese government to improve the current intern system of Chinese schools.

All of this is just tip of the iceberg.

I can understand Foxconn attempting to play down the report.

On the other hand, we still remember how a dispute between a small group of production-line workers and quality-assurance personnel at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant in north-central China nearly escalated into an all-out war between the workers and the management – all because people were complaining about their iPhones scratching all too easily.

Just like today, Foxconn tried to avoid bad press by dumbifying the incident.

I don’t know about you, but even doing write-ups like this makes me wanna puke.

I love my iPhone and iPad and everything Apple and don’t pretend to be oblivious of the working conditions in Apple’s supply chain. It is true that Foxconn also assembles products for other major computer and electronics makers but such thinking doesn’t exonerates Foxconn from the wrongs.

Unfortunately, there’s little we can do to prevent it other than report about such incidents (and often times the media goes one step too far). In the meantime, Foxconn is making some baby steps towards correcting workplace violations.

One thing is certain: this shit has got to stop and Foxconn clearly needs to get its act together.

Feel free to vent your frustration down in the comments.