Labor officials visit Foxconn iPhone plant, question officials about hiring

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Indian labour officials this week visited a Foxconn factory in the country’s south and questioned executives about the company’s hiring practices, an official said, after Reuters reported that the major Apple supplier was rejecting married women for iPhone assembly jobs.

A five-member team from the federal government’s regional labour department visited the Foxconn factory near Chennai in Tamil Nadu state on July 1 and spoke to the company’s directors and human resources officials, regional labour commissioner A. Narasaiah told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday.

Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while Apple also did not respond to Reuters questions about the visit.

The inquiry comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government last week asked state authorities and the federal government’s regional chief labour commissioner’s office to provide a detailed report on the matter, following a Reuters investigation into hiring practices at the manufacturing plant.

“We are collecting information and have asked the company to submit documents such as company policies, recruitment policies,” Narasaiah said, as well as evidence of compliance with labor laws and information on maternity and retirement benefits. “They told us they are not discriminating.”

Narsaiah said Foxconn told labour officials that the factory employed 41,281 people, including 33,360 women. Of these women, about 2,750, or about 8%, are married, he said, citing Foxconn’s submission.

Narasaiah said Foxconn did not break down the number of employees into specific areas such as iPhone assembly, where Reuters reported discrimination was taking place. He said labor inspectors questioned 40 married women inside the plant, who raised no concerns about discrimination.

Narsaiah said he currently has no plans to question Foxconn’s third-party placement agents, who search for candidates and bring them to the plant for interviews.

A Reuters investigation published last week found that Foxconn systematically excluded married women from assembly jobs at its main Indian iPhone plant because they have greater family responsibilities than their unmarried counterparts. Foxconn HR sources and third-party hiring agents cited family responsibilities, pregnancy and higher absenteeism as reasons for not hiring married women.

The report also found that Taiwan-based Foxconn relaxes its practice of not hiring married women during high production periods.

The news has sparked debate on TV channels, newspaper editorials, and calls by opposition politicians and women’s groups, including members of Prime Minister Modi’s party, for an investigation.

Responding to a Reuters inquiry, Apple and Foxconn acknowledged lapses in hiring practices in 2022 and said they had worked to resolve the issues. However, all the discriminatory practices documented by Reuters at the Tamil Nadu plant occurred in 2023 and 2024. The companies did not address those cases.

Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, previously said it “strongly denies allegations of employment discrimination based on marital status, gender, religion or any other form.”

Apple has said that all of its suppliers, including Foxconn, hire married women and that “when concerns were first raised about hiring practices in 2022, we took immediate action and worked with our supplier to conduct monthly audits to identify issues and ensure our high standards are upheld.”

Indian law does not prevent companies from discriminating in hiring based on marital status, though Apple and Foxconn have policies prohibiting such practices in their supply chains.

© Thomson Reuters 2024


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