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Foxconn Accused of Forcing InternsTo Build PS4s Or Lose School Credit 196

Posted by timothy
from the give-'em-some-credit dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from a short article at Geek.com, based on this Chinese newspaper report (Google translation) that thousands of students have been (figuratively) press-ganged into assembling PlayStation 4 consoles, ahead of the PS4's November launch. From the article: "The students involved were offered internships at the company while studying an IT engineering course. But those that accepted aren't being assigned work that matches their course or skill set. Instead, they are being put on the production lines. The reason it is being called a forced internship is because if any of the students refuse to do the work they are assigned, six credits will be deducted from their course total. Without those six credits it's thought to be impossible to pass, meaning the students have to do the work or risk losing their qualification."
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Foxconn Accused of Forcing InternsTo Build PS4s Or Lose School Credit

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Slavery? Nah. Wage slavery! It's new, you'll like it. Or else.

    • You know, as much as it sucks and is a screw over, the students still likely have much better prospects than the non-student workers at foxconn. And I'm not necessarily saying it's good for the students.
      • by TWiTfan (2887093)

        I'm pretty sure that assembly line work isn't going to improve their prospects much. Foxconn may have fed them a line that this is a "show of dedication" that's going to improve their chances of getting hired for management or executive positions, or some such horseshit. But at the end of the day, they've only shown themselves to be desperate slaves. And that's not going to earn them any respect, from Foxconn or anyone else.

        • And I'm not necessarily saying it's good for the students.

          The point that you and the moderator missed is not that the students are better for it; it's that it's an indicator of how bad the company manages it's human resources. And since the students are temporarily working while getting degrees to make them competitive, and yet this is how they're treated, then this is only the tip of the ice berg for the poor folks stuck to the company in the long run.

        • by dgatwood (11270)

          I'm pretty sure that assembly line work isn't going to improve their prospects much.

          That's not necessarily true.

          If these are hardware engineering interns, then spending a day or two working every position in the assembly line for a short period of time could be a valuable job skill. By letting them see firsthand what parts of the design are assembled easily and what parts aren't, they would have a better idea of what works and what doesn't (and why), which might actually make them better design engineers.

          S

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      In all fairness to Foxconn, these interns did voluntarily enroll in the School of Hard Knocks.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      bribing of the school officials bribery.

      it's their fault. they shouldn't be providing credits for assembly work in the first place!

      *unless of course the school is actually an assembler school, ;) just not the kind of assembler course they thought it would be..

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:25AM (#45090445)

      Slavery? Nah. Wage slavery! It's new, you'll like it. Or else.

      Except that it is not new. Since the 1950s, students in China have been required to work in factories, farms, or military service. It is not supposed to be an "internship" related to their work, but rather normal work to give them an appreciation of the proletariat/peasant/soldier. They are treated the same, and paid the same, as the other workers. Building PS4s is probably an easier assignment than 99% of the students get, so they should stop whining, and get the job done. If they don't like it, I am sure some students assigned to mosquito infested rice paddies would be happy to swap with them.

      These students are going to be the future leaders, in both business and politics. It is reasonable to require them to have an appreciation for the people they will be leading.

      My wife is Chinese, and during college she spent six months working in a car factory in Tianjin, installing door handles. She remembers it as a mostly positive experience.

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:28AM (#45090473)

        Honestly not a bad system even if all they learn is why they should continue their education. My family did not require my economic contribution when I was a child but from the age of 15 I held various jobs for spending money, car insurance and most importantly to my parents so I could see what sort of someone without much education would be likely to get. Once you have spent a summer of 8-12 hour days washing dishes you know you would like to do more with your life.

      • by Russ1642 (1087959)

        These students are going to be the future leaders, in both business and politics. It is reasonable to require them to have an appreciation for the people they will be leading.

        Well said. Everyone who manages labour workers should have done that work at one time, from the CEO on down. But since that's never going to happen I suggest that the CEO's office be placed in the middle of the factory floor. No walls either, just right out in the open.

      • but they should be paid not working for free It's one thing to do work like that but for free?

  • Any executive worth his/her weight in warm spit would look at the problems Foxconn is constantly having and give a hard second look at producing equipment in the states. Tesla has revolutionized car manufacturing, so could the electronics industry.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Any executive worth his/her weight in warm spit would look at the problems Foxconn is constantly having and give a hard second look at producing equipment in the states.

      Sadly, most executives are going to say "are we still profitable? Awesome" and not give a damn.

      Making the equipment in the US will likely cost more, cut down on profits, and therefore reduce executive bonuses.

      The current mentality says "cheap as possible and cut as many jobs as you can". I don't see that changing any time soon.

      Most executi

      • Most executives would be happy to say 'we'll accept a slightly lower margin if we can make up for it in sales volume because more people will buy our product if we can guarantee a certain standard of living for people on our production lines'. At least, they would be happy to say it if it were true. Unless people are willing to boycott Sony and not buy a PS4 over this kind of thing, they have no incentive to stop.
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Someone would have to offer a competing product that did that first. If box MS and Sony decline to do so the buyer cannot vote with his dollars for that option. Declining to buy only sends the message that the good is not attractive to that buyer not why.

          A new competitor could take that risk, I think someone building SteamBoxes might. They have a lot less to risk and can be more willing to take chances. Since there will be many builders it also presents less risk to the platform.

          • by Zeromous (668365)

            Exactly. And the reason no one does this?

            Simple. It's because the moment someone slaps a sustainable or sweatless sticker on their E-product, people are going to start looking at where the caps, commodity chips and resistors come from. Are the components 100% made without slave labour? Can their million part suppliers guarantee this all the time. It becomes a very risky business proposition and a PR disaster waiting to befell any competing product thats dares to promise that which cannot be ever guara

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              Which is why you say assembled in $X. You do the best you can.

              The folks who nitpick like that tend to be folks who will never buy anyway though. Like people who claim hybrids save no money, but drive SUVs. The SUV saves no money and in fact wastes it but they just want to be assholes anyway.

              • by Zeromous (668365)

                I think you are missing my point where the standard is a moving target. I don't disagree with what you've said, (I drive a small fuel efficient SUV, but I'm a goalie and need to lug a giant hockey bag that never quite fit in my Corrolla), but I also understand why companies do not commit to hitting the target of utopian, sustainable manufacture. Until replication technology is available, no one will be happy with their commitments when it comes to input (slave, union, living wage labour) and output (pric

                • by h4rr4r (612664)

                  I want to see this goalie stuff that does not fit in a hatchback. I have a small hatchback car and as the seats fold down I can haul a ton of stuff. Not saying you should not own an SUV, just that it would be mighty disingenuous of you to find fault with the fuel economy of my car.

                  I think companies go for realistic goals and can meet them. See some restaurants not using factory farmed animals, or only organic produce.

                  I would love to buy a PS4 made without this sorts of shenanigans.

                  • by Zeromous (668365)

                    I have a family too. It is simply not practical. Like I said I bought an efficient SUV, which is essentially a taller Camry. I tried to be responsible, but at some point I threw out my prinicipals in order to be practical.

                    > See some restaurants not using factory farmed animals, or only organic produce.
                    Where most people cannot afford to eat. Or simply unsustainable to feed everyone who needs food.

                    You can't even buy a PC without these shenanigans, so I'm just left to wonder if we're simply being di

                    • by h4rr4r (612664)

                      I have a family as well. I guess you have more than 4 people then. I understand that desire to be practical.

                      Most people could afford to eat that way, they just might not get beef every night. Considering the size of our people that might be a very good thing.

                      I think you can't because the level of demand is low and the level of fraud is likely high. I think at some point you will be able too. Both from rising wages and desire from all over the world and automation.

            • by dgatwood (11270)

              Simple. It's because the moment someone slaps a sustainable or sweatless sticker on their E-product, people are going to start looking at where the caps, commodity chips and resistors come from. Are the components 100% made without slave labour?

              Yes and no. When you move manufacturing to a country where workers are treated better, the component manufacturing tends to follow, because it is generally cheaper to source parts locally than to ship them halfway around the world. So no, you can't guarantee every

        • Boycott Who? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by tuppe666 (904118) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:38AM (#45090585)

          Unless people are willing to boycott Sony and not buy a PS4 over this kind of thing, they have no incentive to stop.

          Why boycott Sony? When you can boycott Foxconn products like the iPhone and Xbox. Sony have their own manufacturing plants. Where do you think the UK made rasberry Pi is made? Sony's Pencoed factory. I suspect that Foxconn will not be making the PS4 long term, but have used Foxconn to deal with its initial demand, their are very few companies who could have taken on this contract.

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            Why boycott Sony?

            I don't boycott Sony, but I refuse to buy anything electronic from them, the bastards rooted my PC ten years ago. It was vandalism against thousands of people and someone should have gone to jail for it.

            Then they pitched OtherOS and removed it after the poor suckers bought it (should have learned from XCP). Like your car dealer taking out your cars AC after you've paid for the car.

            Boycott? Nope, I just don't buy and laugh wildly when I see someone that does. No good can come from buying a S

        • "if we can guarantee a certain standard of living for people on our production lines"

          You actually think Humans care about that?. It's a slim minority, most likely countable on your fingers. And boycott? yeah THAT'S worked well in the past. We still see things like the Foxconn incident precisely because of lack of care and no willingness, except for a handful of people, to do anything about it as long as they can get their product. I've learned to accept that, because it's not going to change and I can't cha

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          Most executives would be happy to say 'we'll accept a slightly lower margin if we can make up for it in sales volume because more people will buy our product if we can guarantee a certain standard of living for people on our production lines'.

          Nah, most executives prefer to trick people into believing that while still manufacturing in China.

          Proof? Labels that say stuff like "Designed in California"...

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Cost increases are insignificant and may actually be a savings if you can call them part of your marketing budget. Now if you think 100 Chinese workers will turn into 100 American workers you are deluded. More like 10 Americans and the rest of the jobs will be replaced with automation. This will also cut QA jobs since machines don't do worse on Friday at 16:30 as they are not eager to leave nor a Monday at 8:00 from a hangover.

    • by alen (225700)

      that would be kind of awesome

      instead of me paying to send my kids to camp, i'll get paid to send them to build some electronics for 18 hours a day

    • by khallow (566160)

      Any executive worth his/her weight in warm spit would look at the problems Foxconn is constantly having and give a hard second look at producing equipment in the states.

      These "problems" aren't so for Foxconn. An ammoral government-backed business turns cheap labor and resources into high value products. It's not teaching the lesson you think it is.

      Tesla has revolutionized car manufacturing, so could the electronics industry.

      Tesla's tricks work just as well in China and a lot of the costs would be cheaper. The difference is that Elon Musk lives in the US not in China.

    • by Dzimas (547818)

      Any executive worth his/her weight in warm spit would look at the problems Foxconn is constantly having and give a hard second look at producing equipment in the states. Tesla has revolutionized car manufacturing, so could the electronics industry.

      Assembly workers at Flextron's new "American" Moto X assembly plant are paid $9 hour and have to work 12-hour rotating day/night shifts. The reality of large scale mass production isn't pretty -- there are very few good jobs to be had in the supply chain, and lots of thinly disguised sweatshop labor.

  • Despicable. But not a surprise.

  • by Craefter (71540) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:05AM (#45090247)

    Why does China get the job done?
    - They understand their priorities when the world wants the latest gadgets
    - Cheap labor
    - Small kiddy fingers == smaller gadgets
    - Lost of cheap labor
    - Factories run at 24/7 which means a more efficient use of factory resources
    - No workers's union which could jeopardize deadlines.

    Currently China is a booming economy (partially because they have lots of cheap labor). Maybe The West has become too elitist in A) Gadget demands and B) Worker rights. Our demand is there, China is just for filling our wishes.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      The rush to the lowest common denominator. How about we cull from the top, eliminate those who want to push us into the rush to the lowest common denominator and see what happens then. Don't forget they get paid the most and do by far the least, so massive savings to be had. No Golden parachutes, no private jets and, no insane bonus schemes. At least in China they are teaching future management what it means to work the production, sounds like that lesson should be spread around some more.

      • by khallow (566160)

        The rush to the lowest common denominator. How about we cull from the top, eliminate those who want to push us into the rush to the lowest common denominator and see what happens then.

        You haven't changed the lowest common denominator by doing that. Instead, merely by sending substantial business to the LCD we have increased the LCD. At some point, the developed world might become part of the LCD for various reasons. In that case, you'll be relatively happy that someone else is throwing you some business.

    • It's kind of a relief to know that pretty soon China's economic model will evaporate once 3d printing becomes consumerized.

      At least, the part where cheap labor is mercilessly exploited in an inhuman fashion by lazy, worthless douchebags.

      • by mysidia (191772)

        It's kind of a relief to know that pretty soon China's economic model will evaporate once 3d printing becomes consumerized.

        No, because the Chinese manufacturers will leverage 3D printing as well. And at scale, it will probably result in it still being cheaper to buy than to print on your own.

    • Except we never had a chance to choose.

      Because if we had any real and informed choice between product A whose money stays in the local economy and product B foxconn style, we'd have chosen A even if we had to fork more money.
      Because it's better to fork more money and have an income and some rights, like western economies did before the 90s, than race to the bottom and have the whole economy race with you. "Sorry, for us to be competitive you have to work more hours". "Sorry, for us to be competitive you hav

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Because if we had any real and informed choice between product A whose money stays in the local economy and product B foxconn style, we'd have chosen A even if we had to fork more money.

        Except Wal Mart has more or less proved that to be untrue.

        See, since everyone's job has been eliminated or off-shored, most people don't have the luxury of buying ethical. They just need to buy cheap to stretch what little money they have.

        I fear this race to the bottom is far from over.

    • by PhilHibbs (4537)

      - Small kiddy fingers == smaller gadgets

      When my uncle was 5 years old, his father came to school and took him home so that he could help a young sow giving birth. Small hands. Nothing new.

    • Why does China get the job done?
      - They understand their priorities when the world wants the latest gadgets
      - Cheap labor
      - Small kiddy fingers == smaller gadgets
      - Lost of cheap labor
      - Factories run at 24/7 which means a more efficient use of factory resources
      - No workers's union which could jeopardize deadlines.

      Currently China is a booming economy (partially because they have lots of cheap labor). Maybe The West has become too elitist in A) Gadget demands and B) Worker rights. Our demand is there, China is just for filling our wishes.

      Actually, there is a worker's union. China is a Communist country. Under Communism, the union is the Party, which represents and benevolently guides everything for the benefit of all the workers.

      And America is a Democracy, where the will of the people is reflected in their elected representatives without respect to who has the most money and/or can be the most annoying.

  • by Stolpskott (2422670) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:06AM (#45090253)

    In most of the companies where I have worked, the interns were judged to be incapable of direct involvement in frontline work, whether that was coding, sales, process-based QA, support or technical documentation.
    I did show on a couple of occasions that they could be useful in the QA, support and documentation roles on a limited basis, and when that was not possible, I always dragged my interns off to any meetings I was attending, and talked for what felt like the whole day about what I was doing, but mostly about "why" and "how" - by the time they got out of an internship and finished their education, the chances of them using the same tools as me was minimal anyway, so the processes and reasoning were more useful anyway.
    Just about every other engineer and manager used their interns as coffee boys/girls or errand runners.
    I cannot say that my interns were happier or felt more fulfilled than any of the others, but they were the ones who wanted to come back a second time, and I am pretty sure they learned a lot more (although one or two of our interns actually made coffee for the first time ever when they were with us).
    The whole point of this self-patting-on-back is to say that interns rarely get tasks relevant to their skillset or needs. In this case, it seems like a bit of Chinese pragmatism, using the free resources they have available to maximise profit.

    • by MtHuurne (602934)

      We put our interns (CS students) on proof-of-concept projects. This gives the intern some shiny new tech to play with and it minimizes the risk to the primary business. If the project goes well, you can see whether the concept is promising to develop further, plus you get advance warning on some of the implementation problems, such as bugs in new devices or tooling. It does require some effort to get the intern up to speed and help them across some roadblocks they will encounter, but if the intern is any go

    • In the US, at least, it's illegal for interns to do any front-line work because the company is not paying them. They are not allowed to do anything that could provide a competative advantage to the company to discourage corporations from bringing on tons of interns for free labor.
      • by dj245 (732906)

        In the US, at least, it's illegal for interns to do any front-line work because the company is not paying them. They are not allowed to do anything that could provide a competative advantage to the company to discourage corporations from bringing on tons of interns for free labor.

        It is illegal for unpaid interns to do this kind of work. But generally companies pull it off anyway since the law doesn't have very measureable criteria to judge against.

        For paid interns, you can have them do whatever you want. They are basically summer temp workers. Ideally you should give them something slightly interesting to do; part of the goal of such programs should be to help recruit future talent. But that is not mandatory. You could make them be janitors if you wanted.

    • by jsrjsr (658966)
      Hmmm... We must be getting a better crop of interns than you. Our interns start out testing products and a year later are usually writing code for testing those products. Several interns have written code that ended up in our products -- these are the ones that we usually hire when they graduate.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:14AM (#45090329) Journal
    These accusations of coercion are blatantly defamatory. We are simply offering incentives, which the interns, as free and rational agents, are choosing to accept or decline. It's practically a libertarian utopia, trade among men, as equals, free from the dead hand of state power. Anyone who says otherwise is probably some sort of commie, who thinks that labor and capital negotiate from positions of unequal strength or some bullshit like that.
  • I am a little confused at the real point of this story this is not about rioting of abusing child workers. Students "worldwide" working are routinely treated badly in a work placement. Personally I love the idea of future designers and engineers working on a production line. I can't help but think of the vast differences between the notoriously difficult to manufacture iPhone and the designed to be assembled Moto X.

  • to stop having shit made in China? We have the labour, technology, skills and parts to make it here at home.
    I know why we don't (capitalism!) but damnit, we should.

  • by areusche (1297613) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:28AM (#45090471)

    This whole "intern" experience annoys the hell out of me. I had the unfortunate pleasure of being a coffee runner / bottom b!tch while I was in school too. If you're going to intern the companies need to pay them a minimum wage or whatever the going rate is for entry level people. Yes I know this is China, but even in the US a few years ago the whole intern thing was a complete excuse to slave labor college students.

    My internship was a complete joke and a waste of my time. I know a few kids who were lucky, but the majority never had any "connections" to use when they left the internship and post college. Get a real part time job locally or in my case work at the on campus IT department which coincidentally helped me land my real first job with a salary and benefits.

    Onto the topic at hand, when I buy products made in a third world country, I know for a fact somewhere along the line little starving children made it for pennies so I can buy it at a 300% markup. That's the whole point of globalization, to exploit a lesser countries cheaper labor and resources so we can upcharge local americans and pocket the markup. I don't understand the outrage people have. You're knowingly buying a product made from a country that doesn't care about its environment and people. That is why it is super cheap!

    There is a reason there aren't any "free trade Xboxes" or "100% Fair Pay iPhones". If you don't like third world countries abusing their people and environment for your shiny new toy then don't buy it and live like it is 1994 without any real technology or keep using tech that was built from fabrication plants that were in the US.

    • by MattskEE (925706)

      Engineering students in the US have pretty good internship opportunities which are frequently paid well over minimum wage and if they like you it can lead to job offers and help young engineers build their professional network.

      That other industries might not even pay their interns seems very wrong to me. Companies aren't in the business of training interns for charity so the company must derive some benefit, therefore the interns should be paid at least minimum wage. Even if the work output is low the com

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        This may not have much to do with the USA and more to do with a field that expects to get paid for their work, or the company offering it.

        I also had an internship in engineering (Australia). I was put on a $60k salary for the 3 months I worked. My sister however did an internship in journalism. Completely unpaid, and that's apparently the norm for journalists. On top of that she also spent a lot of time demonstrating skills outside work (running a blog, posting opinion pieces to newspapers etc) which was un

  • Celebrate (Score:2, Funny)

    by CimmerianX (2478270)
    Three Cheers for the Unregulated, Free Market...... hip hip .... (*WHIP*) Get back to work!!!
  • It's not like we have similar schemes in the USA. Go into Legal, Entertainment, or Teaching and they all require long UNPAID internships doing work vaguely related to their field. Medical internships vary... Some are paid, some are not... It's really Manufacturing and Engineering internships in the USA that are Unique for almost always being paid in addition to college credit. Many internships you pay for college credit, and you pay again for "supervision" fees... And you work a bunch of free hours.

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:34AM (#45090543) Journal
    I agreed to be a "web intern" for the local newspaper one semester. I thought I'd be helping to design layouts or code bits. No, it turned out all I did was copy news stories from Quark and paste them into HTML, and modify/crop the newsprint images for the web. It was tedious, it was boring, and all I learned was that there really REALLY needed to be a pure HTML export feature in Quark and there wasn't one. It sucked.

    But hey, I got free web experience and a line on my resume, right?
    • by Sez Zero (586611)

      I agreed to be a "web intern" for the local newspaper one semester. I thought I'd be helping to design layouts or code bits. No, it turned out all I did was copy news stories from Quark and paste them into HTML, and modify/crop the newsprint images for the web.

      A recent Supreme Count ruling [slashdot.org] makes that type of work paid. If it isn't education and setup to benefit the student, then you get should get paid.

      • Well that was also 14 years ago or so. Unless that ruling was retroactive it doesn't help me now.
  • Sony is not "just the customer" here. First, they know that Foxconn regularly utilizes inhuman practices. Second, Foxconn ain't doing this with everyone. Sony is leaning on them hard.

  • There's quite a few people that are considered essential to national security (DHS, CBP, etc) that are still working right now, but with no paychecks coming in (presumably they will get back pay). I joked to a friend that having a job but no paycheck is called an internship. So maybe Foxconn is just taking a queue from the US only using students instead of essential employees.
  • 1) Go to work dressed like this:
    http://starckmarcandthefarc.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/china_art_1.jpg [wordpress.com]

    2) Hand out these to the other factory workers, and recite loudly from it during lunch breaks:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/90/Quotations_from_Chairman_Mao_Tse-Tung_bilingual.JPG [wikimedia.org]

    3) Repeat 1 and 2 until reassigned to IT work, or until fellow workers trash supervisors office for counterrevolutinary activity

    .
  • This has been how it's done in China for all of recent history. It's not going to change and there are a lot worse "internships" than assembling consoles in a factory. They assign kids to jobs ranging from the worst job imaginable to the best, it's just how things are done there.

    Culture differences make things appear more "right" or "wrong" depending on where you live. There are a LOT of worse things to worry about China (or any nation) than their internship practices

  • The most efficient form of labor. No employer matching 401k contributions here.

  • by GrBear (63712)

    Slashdotters will attempt to find a way to blame Apple as they use the same factory.

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