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Foxconn won’t change until the West stops sending mixed messages

Foxconn has admitted that it has been forcing student interns to work overtime.

Photograph: Getty Images

Will anything change in light of the Foxconn labour violations admissions? Don’t bet on it. Foxconn won’t change until the West stops sending mixed messages about poor working conditions. We berate them with one breath and trip over ourselves to by the latest iPhone the next.

Foxconn has admitted that it has been forcing student interns to work overtime and nightshifts under pain of failing their college courses if they don’t comply.

Foxconn became known to the general public after the spat of suicides at the companies Chinese factories in 2010; after which the company went above and beyond to ensure employee well being, installing suicide nets to catch jumpers and return them safely to the happy and healthy working environment.

The Taiwanese company, listed in Taipei under the name Hon Hai Precision Industries, is the world’s largest consumer electronics maker, working with pretty much every major manufacturer and employing over a million people. Chances are, unless you are Amish, you’ll have used something made by Foxconn.

Some of the students involved spoke to the Chinese media, claiming that more than a thousand of them worked on putting together the upcoming Sony Playstation 4 as well as other basic tasks, none relevant to their studies or teaching them much outside of working in a Foxconn plant making Playstations.

The West’s ability to block this kind of thing out of its collective consciousness signals how dependant we have come on cheap, semi-slave labour happening on the other side of the world.

We must move away from the "it’s fine as long as it’s not happening in my backyard" mentality and let it be known to the tech giants that people won’t buy goods that people have been forced to make for little to no pay, under sub-human conditions.

This, of course, isn’t really possible for the individual. What does Foxconn care if I or even a few thousand people boycott their products? The only way we’ll see meaningful change is if Governments step in and demand reform. I’ll not hold my breath for that to happen.