Workers at Apple’s largest iPhone factory in China were kicked and beaten by police officers as violent protests continued over a wage dispute, prompting the company to issue a public apology.
Foxconn, the best-known contract assembler of smartphones and other electronics, offered higher wages to attract more workers to assemble the new iPhone 14 at the sprawling Zhengzhou factory after thousands of workers fled the factory last month after they had complained about unsafe working conditions.
The company has struggled to ramp up production hampered by COVID restrictions.
Chaos erupted on Tuesday after workers who had traveled long distances to take jobs at the Foxconn factory accused management of changing their wage terms, according to an employee, Li Sanshan.
Li said he quit a catering job after seeing an ad promising him the equivalent of $3,500 for two months of work. But Li said the company said once the workers arrived, they would have to work an extra two months at lower pay to get the $3,500.
Online videos showed thousands of workers in surgical masks facing lines of police in white hazmat suits with plastic shields in rare scenes of open dissent in China.
Police kicked and beat a protester with clubs after he grabbed a metal bar with which he had been hit.
In one clip, several protesters surrounded a police car with officers inside and began rocking the vehicle back and forth while shouting.
The Zhengzhou labor unrest comes as the ruling Communist Party faces mounting frustration over restrictions in areas across China that have closed shops and offices and locked millions in their homes amid record infection numbers.
This has led to protests in some cities. Videos on social media show residents tearing down barricades erected to enforce neighborhood closures.
The ruling party vowed this month to try to reduce disruption by shortening quarantines and making other changes. But the party is sticking to a “zero-COVID” strategy aimed at isolating every case while other governments relax controls and try to live with the virus.
The unrest at the Foxconn plant lasted until Wednesday morning, when thousands of workers gathered outside dormitories and clashed with vastly outnumbered factory security guards before riot police were called to quell the protesters.
Videos showed protesters spraying fire extinguishers at police.
A man posing as the Communist Party secretary in charge of municipal services was shown in a video posted to social media platform Sina Weibo urging protesters to back down. He assured them that their demands would be met.
The factory makes Apple devices, including the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, and accounts for 70% of iPhone shipments worldwide.
Apple said it has employees at the factory and is “working closely with Foxconn to ensure their employees’ concerns are addressed.”
On Thursday, Foxconn blamed a “technical error” in hiring new employees and said they were being paid what they were promised.
“We apologize for an error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual payment corresponds to the agreement and the official recruitment posters,” the company said in a statement. It pledged to “do its best to actively resolve employees’ concerns and legitimate demands.”
The apology was a reversal from a day earlier when Foxconn said it had honored its payment contracts.
The company previously warned that iPhone 14 deliveries would be delayed after access to an industrial area around the Zhengzhou factory, which Foxconn said employs 200,000 people, was suspended following COVID outbreaks.
Foxconn, whose headquarters are in New Taipei City, Taiwan, denied what it said were online comments that employees with the virus were living in dormitories at the Zhengzhou factory. The facilities were disinfected and inspected by the government before staff moved in.
“Regarding violence, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” the company said in a statement.
Foxconn offered up to 10,000 yuan, the equivalent of $1,400, to newly hired employees who wanted to quit and return home, financial news agency Cailianshe reported, citing unidentified recruiters.
The row comes as the ruling Communist Party is trying to stem a surge in coronavirus cases without shutting down factories like it did in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. His tactics include “closed-loop management” or having employees live at their workplaces with no outside contact.
Authorities pledged last month to lessen economic disruption by shortening quarantine periods and making other changes to China’s “zero-COVID” strategy, which aims to isolate every case. Even so, the surge in infections has prompted authorities to suspend access to neighborhoods and factories, and to close office buildings, shops and restaurants in parts of many cities.
On Thursday, people in eight districts of Zhengzhou, which has a total population of 6.6 million, were asked to stay at home for five days. Daily mass tests have been ordered for a “war of annihilation” against the virus.
With mail wires
https://nypost.com/2022/11/24/workers-at-apples-foxconn-plant-in-china-beaten-by-cops/ Workers beaten by police officers at Apple’s Foxconn plant in China