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New labor unrest rocked the huge Foxconn iPhone factory in China

New labor unrest rocked the huge Foxconn iPhone factory in China
  • Pictures online show hundreds of workers protesting
  • Surveillance cameras and windows were smashed by men with sticks
  • Workers complain of delayed wages and inadequate food

SHANGHAI/TAIPI (Reuters) – Hundreds of workers took part in protests at a Foxconn station. (2317.TW) Footage uploaded to social media showed the main iPhone factory in China, where some men smashed security cameras and windows.

The rare scenes of open dissent in China represent an escalation of unrest at the massive factory in Zhengzhou that has come to symbolize a dangerous buildup of frustration with the country’s draconian COVID rules as well as the incompetent handling of the situation by the world’s largest contract manufacturer.

Several protesters said in a live broadcast that the outbreak of the protests, which began early Wednesday, appeared to be a plan to delay bonus payments. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the videos.

Surrounded by people in hazmat suits and some wielding batons, the workers, according to a video from one of the videos, chanted, “Give us our wages!”. Other footage showed tear gas being fired and workers removing quarantine barriers.

Dissatisfaction with strict quarantine rules, the company’s inability to stamp out disease outbreaks and poor conditions, including food shortages, has led workers to flee the factory campus since Apple Inc.’s inception. (AAPL.O) The supplier imposed a so-called closed-loop system at the world’s largest iPhone factory in late October.

Under closed loop operations, employees live and work on site in isolation from the wider world.

Former workers estimated that thousands fled the factory campus. Before the unrest, the Zhengzhou factory employed about 200,000 people. To retain employees and attract more workers, Foxconn had to offer higher bonuses and salaries.

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In the videos, workers talked about never being sure whether they would get meals while in quarantine or complained that there weren’t enough restrictions to contain the outbreak.

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

Two sources familiar with the matter said there were protests at the Zhengzhou campus but declined to give further details. They declined to publish their names because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

Foxconn and Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

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

As of Wednesday afternoon, most of the footage had been deleted on Kuaishou, a social media platform where Reuters has reviewed many of the videos. Kuaishou did not respond to a request for comment.

The protest images come at a time when investors are wary of escalating global supply chain problems due in part to China’s COVID-free policies aimed at stamping out every outbreak.

Restrictions and discontent affected production. Reuters reported last month that iPhone production at the Zhengzhou factory could drop by up to 30% in November due to COVID restrictions. Read more

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Foxconn is Apple’s largest iPhone maker, accounting for 70% of iPhone shipments globally. Most of the phones are made in the Zhengzhou factory, although it has other smaller production sites in India and southern China.

Shares of Foxconn, officially called Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, have fallen 2% since the unrest erupted in late October.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh and the Beijing Newsroom). Additional reporting by David Kirton in Shenzhen, Yimou Li in Taipei, and Yu Luntian. Written by Anne Marie Rountree; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.