- Online images show hundreds of workers protesting
- Surveillance cameras and windows smashed by man with stick
- Workers complain about wage arrears, lack of food
- Foxconn says it is working to prevent repeat of violence
SHANGHAI/TAIPEI, Nov 23 (Reuters) – Video uploaded on social media showed hundreds of workers taking part in a protest at Foxconn’s (2317.TW) flagship iPhone factory in China, with some smashing surveillance cameras. Cameras and windows.
The rare scene of public dissent in China marks an escalation of unrest at a large factory in Zhengzhou, which has become a dangerous rallying point of frustration over China’s ultra-draconian COVID rules and the government’s poor handling of the situation. The world’s largest contract manufacturer.
The protests that began early Wednesday appeared to have been sparked by a plan to delay bonuses, many demonstrators said live. Reuters could not immediately verify the videos.
According to footage in a video titled “Give us our wages back!”, the workers were surrounded by people in full protective gear, some with batons. Other footage showed tear gas being deployed and crews removing quarantine barriers. Some workers have complained that they are forced to share dorms with colleagues who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Foxconn said in a statement that it had fulfilled its payment contract and that reports of infected employees living on campus with new hires were “untrue.”
“Regarding any violent incidents, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” the company added.
A source familiar with the situation in Zhengzhou said production at the factory had not been affected by the worker unrest and output remained “normal”.
Reuters previously reported that Foxconn plans to resume full production at its Zhengzhou iPhone factory by late November.
While the latest riots have added “uncertainty” to the goal, the source said the company was still trying to achieve it, adding that “only some” of the new hires were involved in the riots.
However, another source familiar with the matter said Foxconn was unlikely to hit the target, noting that the disruption caused by the unrest particularly affected new hires to fill gaps in the workforce.
“Originally, we wanted to see if the newcomers could go online before the end of November, but now the situation is turbulent, and normal production will definitely not resume by the end of the month.”
Dissatisfaction with strict quarantine rules, the company’s inability to contain the outbreak and harsh conditions including food shortages have seen workers flee factory campuses since Apple Inc (AAPL.O) suppliers implemented a so-called closed-loop system at the world’s largest factory. Started production at the end of October.
Working in a closed loop, employees live and work on-site, cut off from the wider world.
Former workers estimated thousands fled the factory complex. Before the unrest, the Zhengzhou factory employed about 200,000 people. To retain workers and attract more, Foxconn had to offer bonuses and higher salaries.
Local authorities also stepped in to help, with some urging veterans and government workers to keep working, according to local media reports.
The rush by local authorities to recruit workers may have created a “miscommunication” with new hires over issues such as allowances and accommodation, the first source said.
The Zhengzhou government did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
In the video, workers expressed how they were unsure whether they would be able to get meals during the quarantine, or due to insufficient containment measures to contain the outbreak.
“Foxconn never treats people as human beings,” one person said.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
“It’s now clear that Foxconn’s closed-loop production only helps prevent the spread of COVID to the cities, but does nothing (if not makes the situation worse) for the workers at the factories,” said Aiden Chau of China Labor Bulletin, a Hong-based the Hong Kong-based advocacy group said in an email.
Most of the videos on Kuaishou, the social media platform that Reuters reviewed many of the videos, had been removed by Wednesday afternoon. Kuaishou did not respond to a request for comment.
The images of the protests come as investors worry about escalating global supply chain problems, in part because of China’s zero-COVID policy aimed at stamping out every outbreak.
Restrictions and discontent have affected production. Reuters reported last month that iPhone production at the Zhengzhou factory could drop by as much as 30% in November due to COVID restrictions.read more
Foxconn is Apple’s largest iPhone maker, accounting for 70% of global iPhone shipments. It makes most of its phones at its factory in Zhengzhou, though it has other, smaller production bases in India and southern China.
Shares in Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., have fallen 2 percent since the unrest in late October.
Reporting by Brenda Goh and the Beijing Newsroom; Additional reporting by David Kirton in Shenzhen, Yimou Lee and Yew Lun Tian in Taipei; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Edwina Gibbs, Louise Heavens and Bernadette Baum edit
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