Huge Foxconn iPhone plant in China rocked by fresh worker unrest

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Footage uploaded to social media showed hundreds of workers joining the protest at Foxconn’s flagship iPhone plant in China, some smashing surveillance cameras and windows.

The rare scenes of open dissent in China mark an escalation of unrest at a massive factory in the city of Zhengzhou, which has become a symbol of dangerous construction coupled with the country’s ultra-severe COVID regulations as well as its inability to deal with the situation. The world’s largest contract manufacturer.

Several protesters said on the livestream feed that the trigger for the protests, which began early Wednesday, appeared to be plans to delay bonus payments. The video could not be immediately verified by Reuters.

“Give us our pay!”, according to footage from a video, as he was surrounded by people in full hazmat suits, some with batons. Other footage showed tear gas shells being fired and workers removing quarantine barriers. Some workers complained that they were forced to share dormitories with colleagues who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Foxconn, formally called Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, said in a statement that it had fulfilled its payment contracts and that reports of infected workers living on campus with new recruits were “untrue”.

The company said, “The company will continue to communicate with the employees and the government regarding any kind of violence so that such incidents can be prevented from happening again.”

A source familiar with the situation in Zhengzhou said production at the plant was unaffected by the labor unrest and production remained “normal”.

Reuters previously reported that iPhone production at the factory could drop by up to 30% in November and that Foxconn aimed to resume full production there by the second half of the month. Apple Inc warned that it expected fewer shipments of premium iPhone 14 models than previously estimated.

While the latest unrest has added “uncertainty” to the goal, the source said the company was still working hard to reach it, adding that “only a fraction” of new recruits participated in the unrest.

However, a second source familiar with the matter said it was unlikely to hit Foxconn’s target, pointing to disruptions caused by the unrest, particularly affecting new recruits who are required to bridge the gap in the workforce. was hired for.

“Basically, we were trying to see whether the new recruits can come online by the end of November. But with the unrest, it is certain that we may not resume normal production till the end of the month. “

Foxconn accounts for 70% of iPhone shipments globally. It makes most of the phones at the Zhengzhou plant, although it has other smaller production sites in India and southern China.

Foxconn shares have declined 2% since the unrest emerged in late October.

DA Davidson analyst Thomas Forte said the disruptions could shift some iPhone sales from the key holiday quarter to the March quarter.

Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives said he expects Apple to lose about $1 billion a week in iPhone sales from the shutdown. In the holiday quarter last year, Apple reported iPhone sales of nearly $6 billion per week.

recruitment drive

Resentment over strict quarantine rules, the company’s inability to end outbreaks, and poor conditions including food shortages caused workers to flee factory premises as Apple Inc. Employed a so-called closed loop system. october.

Under closed-loop operations, employees remain isolated from the wider world and work on-site.

Former workers estimate that thousands have fled the factory premises. The Zhengzhou plant employed about 200,000 people before the unrest. Foxconn has had to offer bonuses and higher wages to retain employees and entice more employees.

Local officials also stepped in to help, according to local media reports, with requests from some retired soldiers and government employees.

The first source said local authorities’ eagerness to recruit staff may have played a role in causing “misunderstandings” with new recruits over issues including allowance and accommodation.

The Zhengzhou government did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.

worker crisis

In the video, the workers spoke about how they were never sure whether they would get food in quarantine or because of insufficient restrictions to contain the outbreak.

One person said, “Foxconn never treats humans as humans.”

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

“It is now clear that closed-loop production at Foxconn only helps prevent COVID from spreading to the city, but does nothing (if not make it worse) for the workers at the factory,” China Labor Eden Chow of the Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based advocacy group, said in an email.

By Wednesday afternoon, most of the footage had been removed from the social media platform Kuaishou, where Reuters reviewed several of the videos. Kuaishou did not respond to a request for comment.

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