Monday, August 2, 2021

HP Limits Student Labor in China Factories

Hoping to avoid the sort of labor-related scandals that have plagued Apple and its supplier Foxconn, HP has issued new employment guidelines for its suppliers in China. The guidelines specifically address student interns and temporary workers.

The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Mozur reported, “Hewlett-Packard Co. said Friday it would tighten restrictions on the use of student interns and temporary workers by its suppliers in China in a bid to reduce abuses of an often-exploited loophole in Chinese labor law. But one labor group said it wasn’t clear how effective the measures would be given the role of local officials, agencies and suppliers in funneling such workers into factories.”

Keith Bradsher and David Barboza with The New York Times explained, “Many factories in China have long relied on high school students, vocational school students and temporary workers to cope with periodic surges in orders as factory labor becomes increasingly scarce. Students complain of being ordered by school administrators to put in very long hours on short notice at jobs with no relevance to their studies; local governments sometimes order schools to provide labor, and the factories pay school administrators a bonus.”

Bloomberg News noted, “HP (HPQ) said suppliers must ensure ‘fair remuneration and social insurance’ and all work should be voluntary. ‘Local regulations must be reinforced or exceeded,’ the Palo Alto, California-based company said. ‘Student workers should only engage in work activities that complement the primary degree they are seeking to obtain.’ Students and temporary workers must be free to leave work at any time upon reasonable notice without negative repercussions, and they must have access to reliable and reprisal-free grievance mechanisms, the HP (HPQ) rules state.”

But Rahul Jacob with The Financial Times added, “Geoff Crothall, communications director at China Labour Bulletin, a lobby group in Hong Kong, was skeptical that the guidelines and proposed audits by the company, which has more than 1,000 production suppliers spanning 45 countries and territories, would be effective. ‘How are they going to follow through,’ said Mr Crothall. ‘It’s not up to them how a supplier factory recruits, it is up to the factory.’ Mr Crothall said that it was the demands by the electronics industry for flexibility and lean inventories that ‘created the problem [of a temporary student workforce] in the first place.'”

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