[Updated: Foxconn says it is true]
If you pick up a Sony PlayStation 4 this November, you might think about all those poor kids in China who were allegedly forced to put that engineering masterpiece together for your entertainment pleasure.
If the Chinese press is to be believed — and that’s a big if — then Sony’s contract electronics manufacturer Foxconn is forcing students at a university to build PS4s in the mad rush toward the console launch on Nov. 15. If it’s true, then it’s certainly a new black eye for Foxconn, which has had numerous labor controversies.
Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily said that thousands of students from an information technology engineering program at the Xi’an Institute of Technology (yes, the place not so far from those famous Terra Cotta soldiers) are being coerced to work at Foxconn’s Yantai plant making PS4s. The students must help or lose six course credits, which means they might not graduate.
The program is officially considered an “internship,” and it is publicly promoted by the school. But the publication said that students have said that Foxconn has been assigning them to grunt work like distribution and shipping, even if it bears no resemblance to what they are studying. A finance student was reportedly tasked to glue together pieces of a PS4.
We’ve contacted Sony and Foxconn for comment. Foxconn told the Oriental Daily that its workers are all voluntary, and it has no interest in preventing them from leaving work if they decide to do that. The university declined to comment to the publication. In the past, the Yantai factory has admitted to hiring underage workers. Foxconn was involved in a scandal last year where the school was reportedly paid about $16 for each student it provided in a similar internship program.
UPDATE: In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Foxconn admitted it had problems.
“In the case of recent allegations regarding the internship program at our Yantai campus, we have conducted an internal investigation and have determined that there have been a few instances where our policies pertaining to overtime and night shift work were not enforced,” Foxconn said. “Immediate actions have been taken to bring that campus into full compliance with our code and policies,” the company said. “These actions include reinforcing the policies of no overtime and no night shifts for student interns, even though such work is voluntary, and reminding all interns of their rights to terminate their participation in the program at any time.”