• Friday, July 12, 2024

Business

India probes Foxconn over alleged hiring bias

An investigation published last week found Foxconn systematically excluded married women from assembly jobs at its main Indian iPhone plant.

FILE PHOTO: Women board a Foxconn factory bus near the village of Molachur, Tamil Nadu, India April 1, 2024. REUTERS/Palani Kumar.

By: Pramod Thomas

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

A five-member team of the federal government’s regional labour department visited the Foxconn factory near Chennai, in Tamil Nadu state, on July 1 and spoke to company directors and human resources officials, A. Narasaiah, the regional labour commissioner, told the news agency by telephone on Wednesday (3).

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

The inquiries come after prime minister Narendra Modi’s government asked state officials and the office of the federal government’s Regional Chief Labour Commissioner last week to provide detailed reports on the matter, following Reuters’ investigation into hiring practices at the manufacturing facility.

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

Narasaiah said Foxconn told the labour officials the factory employs 41,281 people, including 33,360 women. Of these women, some 2,750, or about 8 per cent, were married, he said, citing Foxconn’s submission.

Foxconn did not break down the staffing figures into specific areas such as iPhone assembly, where Reuters reported the discrimination was taking place, Narasaiah said. He added that the labour inspectors interviewed 40 married women inside the plant, who raised no concerns about discrimination.

Narasaiah said he currently has no plan to question Foxconn’s third-party hiring agents, who scout for candidates and bring them to the plant for interviews.

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

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

The story has sparked debates on TV channels, newspaper editorials, and calls from opposition figures and women’s groups, including within Modi’s party, to investigate the matter.

Apple and Foxconn acknowledged lapses in hiring practices in 2022 and said they had worked to address the issues. All the discriminatory practices documented by Reuters at the Tamil Nadu plant, however, took place in 2023 and 2024. The companies did not address those instances.

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

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

Indian law does not bar companies from discriminating in hiring based on marital status, though Apple’s and Foxconn’s policies prohibit such practices in their supply chains.

(Reuters)

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