It was recently reported that Foxconn Technologies, a Taiwanese manufacturing company with many plants throughout China, was caught using underage kids to help produce more products to meet production standards by some of their contractors. One of those contractors are Nintendo and one of those products is the Wii U. After the media firestorm came to a head yesterday, the company has responded saying that they will launch a formal investigation into the matter.
Eurogamer has a collection of the new information up and it includes quotes Foxconn recently made to Reuters about the incident, saying...
"Our investigation has shown that the interns in question, who ranged in age from 14 to 16, had worked in that campus for approximately three weeks,"
Foxconn just isn't in charge of producing Wii U home console units for Nintendo, they also take contracts for Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, Nokia and many other top brands. Their most recent and public contract is for iPhone 5 handsets from tech giant Apple, which was also on the receiving end of lots of bad press due forcing workers to put in ridiculous hours for petty pay. In the case of the iPhone 5, riots broke out and many of the security and police enforcement officials were injured, resulting in 40 people being hospitalized.
Nintendo, alternatively, has been bolstering for more Wii U home console units to be made in time for the holiday rush. To make up for the demand in workers, Foxconn reportedly started using underage interns between 14 and 16 to meet the production demands and threatened them that they would lose benefits to graduating if they did not comply.
After the news went viral thanks to Kotaku, Nintendo had put on their PR game face and hit the net waves, issuing a statement to IGN saying...
Nintendo is in communication with Foxconn and is investigating the matter. We take our responsibilities as a global company very seriously and are committed to an ethical policy on sourcing, manufacture and labor. In order to ensure the continued fulfillment of our social responsibility throughout our supply chain, we established the Nintendo CSR Procurement Guidelines in July 2008.
I call bull crap. How do you not know about this when this company has been publicly lambasted for years?
I'm sorry but Foxconn has been under fire way before this child labor incident -- all year long they've been under heavy investigation after employees committed suicide due to the horrible working conditions, as reported by the UK Mirror.
China Labor Watch, a worker rights advocacy group, has been on Foxconn's butt all year long as the company was still coming under fire for pushing employees beyond China's regulatory 60-hour work week. While recent reports indicated that the company only had 3% of employees who were being over-worked and under-paid, the strikes, the riots and the child labor scandal seems to show that Foxconn is a lot filthier than what they let on.
Plain and simple, Nintendo just had to look at any of the headlines for a company like this and bother to talk to the employees to find out if Foxconn was meeting CSR procurement guidelines. They either didn't care or they didn't want to care. I'd love to see how Reggie spins the Big 'N' out of this one...assuming anyone does a follow-up.
Nintendo will probably send a rep to a Foxconn plant, make a few non-binding admonishments to Foxconn's “evil ways” and then leave, after promising that this sort of thing won't happen again. Foxconn will go right back to doing their best to do their worst. Everyone gets a Wii U this holiday season, and first-worlders are happy again.
If you're not satisfied with the corporately-safe PR responses and you really do feel like something should be said or done about the matter (maybe Nintendo using another company to produce their units) feel free to use the Nintendo webform to let them know how you feel. Remember, your voices got the Mass Effect 3 ending changed and you got Capcom to attempt to turn from their ways of disc-locked content...who knows, maybe you can get something done that affects real people in a real way by letting Nintendo know you're not for child labor.