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Apple's iPhone X built with illegal overtime teen labour: FT

[NEW YORK] Apple Inc's main supplier in Asia has been employing high-school students working illegal overtime to assemble the iPhone X in an effort to catch up with demand after facing production delays, the Financial Times reported, citing several teenagers involved.

A group of 3,000 students from the Zhengzhou Urban Rail Transit School were sent to work at the local facility run by Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, known as Foxconn, as part of a three-month stint that was billed as "work experience", and required to graduate, the Financial Times reported.

Six of the students told the FT they routinely worked 11-hour days assembling Apple's flagship smartphone, which constitutes illegal overtime for student interns under Chinese law.

Foxconn, in an emailed response, said company policy doesn't allow interns, who represent a "very small'' percentage of its workforce, to work more than 40 hours a week on "programme-related assignments".

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Foxconn did acknowledge, however, a "number of cases where portions of our campuses have not adhered to this policy. We have investigated all of these cases and confirmed that while all work was voluntary and compensated appropriately, the interns did work overtime in violation of our policy".

Foxconn said it has taken action to correct the situation and will review the internship programme to ensure that it's in compliance and that the event "will not be repeated".

In a response to the FT, Apple said an audit did find instances of student interns working overtime, adding that they were employed voluntarily, were compensated and provided benefits, but that they shouldn't have been allowed to work overtime. Apple didn't immediately provide a response to Bloomberg.

Apple's latest model, the US$999 iPhone X, faced multiple hiccups in production that stymied some suppliers and held back business for Hon Hai, which gets more than half its sales from the California-based company.

Hon Hai is the exclusive assembler of the iPhone X and Apple didn't start selling its marquee device until November, almost two months after the iPhone 8 hit shelves. The delay led to a 39 per cent drop in Foxconn's net income in the three months ended September.

The late introduction seemed only to stoke demand even further, with throngs of Apple enthusiasts lining up outside stores earlier this month to get their hands on one of the devices the day they went on sale. Apple has said demand for the device was "off the charts".