Image via HFlight.net
Qantas, British Airways, and Emirates have allegedly been sourcing their in-flight headphones from a Guangdong prison, according to the testimony of two recently released inmates. The carriers purchased their headphones from the company Airphonics, which sub-contracted the Dongguan City Joystar Electronic Company, which then sub-sub-contracted the work to Dongguan Prison. The facility has come under fire for forced labor practices and abusive treatment of its prisoners.
The Financial Review broke the headline yesterday, after interviewing Danny Cancian, a New Zealander who had been interned in the prison for manslaughter. The Review reports:
[Mr Cancian] said that failure to meet production targets in Dongguan would mean “you are taken outside and tasered”.
“It’s a very cruel environment. You wake up every morning wondering if you are going to survive the day,” he said.
Another former Dongguan inmate, who asked not to be named, confirmed he had made inductors as well as headphones for international airlines while serving a five-year sentence.
“Yes, I made them for the Australian airline Qantas, the one with the Kangaroo as its logo,” he said. “We also made them for Emirates, British Airways and lots of others.”
Both prisoners said the headphones were placed in boxes with the company’s names on them and stacked up ready to leave the prison. However, the boxes for the Australian airline were misspelt as “Quantas”.[…]
Mr Cancian, who has become an advocate for prisoners’ rights since his release, said inmates worked more than 70 hours a week and were severely punished for slow production rates. […]
Prisoners in Dongguan are paid 8 yuan ($1.40) a month for their labour, which is only slightly more than it costs to buy a cake of soap in the prison shop.
“They claimed it was not slave labour because they paid us,” said Mr Cancian.
Qantas has released a statement saying that it is “very concerned by allegations in today’s media and we have immediately suspended our current sourcing arrangements until we can investigate more fully.”
In a slightly less tactful move, Emirates has also released a statement, saying, “Emirates has had a long relationship with this supplier and is satisfied that there is no evidence of any unethical practices in the headset manufacturing process.”
Investigations are still underway, hopefully giving Emirates enough time to hire a new spokesman before the next headline breaks.