Videos on social media show that workers at China’s largest iPhone assembly factory were seen protesting on Wednesday, 23 November 2022. They were also seen confronting, and being confronted by, police in riot gear.
The videos show hundreds of workers facing off with police officers, many in white hazmat suits, on the Foxconn (Apple’s supplier) campus in the city of Zhengzhou. Videos have also shown police kicking and hitting a protester with clubs after he grabbed a metal pole that had been used to strike him—which was said to be filmed at the site.
Why is this happening?
In the footage, now blocked according to CNN, some of the protesters were heard complaining about their pay and sanitary conditions. The sanitary conditions referred to a COVID-19 outbreak last month. Workers reportedly complained about insufficient anti-COVID-19 measures, saying workers who tested positive were not being separated from the rest of the workforce.
The outbreak caused many people leaving Zhengzhou on foot had gone viral on Chinese social media earlier this month. To try to limit the fallout, Foxconn said it tried to take measures to get its staff back by quadrupling daily bonuses for workers at the plant this month.
Chinese state media reported that more than 100,000 people had signed up to fill positions advertised as part of a massive recruitment drive held for Foxconn’s plant. However, workers were heard in the protest videos saying that Foxconn failed to honor their promise of better pay and a bonus after they arrived to work at the plant.
According to an employee, Li Sanshan, he said he quit a catering job when he saw an advertisement promising CNY 25,000 (RM15,562) for two months of work—significantly above the average pay for this type of work in the area. After employees arrived, the company said they had to work two additional months at lower pay to receive the CNY 25,000.
Foxconn has since apologised for a “technical error” in its payment systems—one day after the angry protests. The company also said it would work with staff and local government to prevent further violence and that it would fulfill pay based on contracts. It added that the speculation online about employees who are COVID-19 positive living in the dormitories of the Foxconn campus is “patently untrue”.
“Before new hires move in, the dormitory environment undergoes standard procedures for disinfection, and it is only after the premise passes government check, that the new employees are allowed to move in,” said Foxconn.
How will this impact Apple’s iPhone 14 production?
Earlier this month, Apple had already warned that shipments for some devices would be disrupted. In the U.S. as of last week, the wait time for some models had reached 34 days in the United States.
“We now expect lower iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max shipments than we previously anticipated… Customers will experience longer wait times to receive their new products,” said Apple.
And since the Zhengzhou facility is the world’s largest iPhone assembly site, the wait time for some models could possibly be longer. The company, however, has not yet responded to the latest protests.
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