'Give us our pay!' Massive Foxconn iPhone factory in China shaken by fresh worker unrest

A group of people cross a downed fence following a protest at Foxconn's plant in Zhengzhou, China in this screen grab obtained from a video released on Nov 23, 2022. (Photo: Reuters)

Hundreds of workers participated in demonstrations at Foxconn's flagship iPhone factory in China, with some individuals breaking surveillance cameras and windows, as evidenced by social media footage.

The rare scenes of open dissent in China represent an escalation of unrest at the massive factory in the city of Zhengzhou, which has come to symbolize a dangerous build-up of discontent with the country's ultra-strict Covid-19 rules and the inept handling of the situation by the world's largest contract manufacturer.

The protests, which began early on Wednesday, November 23rd, appeared to have been sparked by a plan to withhold bonus payouts, as numerous participants stated on livestream feeds.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the videos.

According to one video, workers surrounded by individuals wearing full hazmat suits and holding batons screamed, "Give us our wages!" Other films depicted the deployment of tear gas and the dismantling of quarantine fences.

Some employees claimed they were required to share dorms with coworkers who tested positive for Covid-19.

Foxconn, formerly known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, stated in a statement that it had honored its payment obligations and that rumors of infected employees cohabiting with new hires were "false."

"Regarding any acts of violence, the company will continue to interact with employees and the government to prevent future occurrences," the corporation noted.

According to a source acquainted with the situation in Zhengzhou, production at the plant remained "regular" despite the worker discontent.

Reuters had reported that iPhone production at the factory could decline by up to 30 percent in November and that Foxconn planned to resume full production there by the middle of the month.

Apple Inc. cautioned that it anticipates weaker iPhone 14 premium model shipments than initially projected.

While the most recent upheaval has added "uncertainties" to the aim, the corporation is still working hard to achieve it, according to the source, who noted that "just a portion" of the new hires participated in the turmoil.

A second source with knowledge of the situation, however, stated that Foxconn was unlikely to meet the goal, citing the disruptions caused by the turmoil, which impacted fresh recruits hired to fill the personnel shortage.

"Initially, we anticipated that the new hires would be online by November's end. But due to the disturbance, it is certain that we will be unable to restart normal production by the end of the month."

Foxconn is responsible for 70% of iPhone shipments worldwide. It has smaller production facilities in India and southern China, but the majority of its phones are produced at the Zhengzhou factory.

Since the outbreak of turmoil in late October, shares of Foxconn have decreased by 2%.

The disruptions may move some iPhone sales from the crucial holiday quarter to the March quarter, according to D.A. Davidson analyst Thomas Forte.

Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, estimated that the shutdowns would cost Apple approximately US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) every week in lost iPhone sales.

Last year during the holiday quarter, Apple recorded iPhone sales of roughly $6 billion per week.

Recruitment drive

Since the Apple Inc supplier imposed a so-called closed loop system at the world's largest iPhone plant in late October, workers have fled the factory campus due to discontent over strict quarantine regulations, the company's inability to contain outbreaks, and poor conditions including food shortages.

Under closed-loop operations, employees live and work on-site while being cut off from the outside world.

According to former employees, many have reportedly departed the industrial campus.

Before the turmoil, the Zhengzhou facility employed approximately 200,000 individuals. Foxconn has had to provide bonuses and better compensation to retain current employees and recruit new ones.

According to local media, local authorities also assisted, with some asking retired troops and government employees to volunteer.

According to the first source, the willingness of local governments to hire new employees may have contributed to "miscommunication" with new staff over matters such as compensation and housing.

A faxed request for comment was not immediately met with a response from the Zhengzhou government.

Worker woes

In the films, employees complained that they were never sure if they would receive food while in quarantine or that there were low barriers to contain an outbreak.

One person stated, "Foxconn never respects persons as human beings."

Apple did not reply to calls for comment.

Aiden Chau of China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based advocacy group, said in an email that it is now clear that closed-loop production in Foxconn merely prevents Covid-19 from spreading to the city, but does nothing [or even makes it worse] for factory workers.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the majority of the video content on Kuaishou, a social media platform where Reuters watched numerous recordings, had been removed.

Publish : 2022-11-24 09:29:00

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