Workers’ ‘Revolt’ in China’s iPhone Plant: Apple, Foxconn to Pay $1400 to Recruits to Restore Calm

Apple is working to resolve the issues raised by workers in its iPhone factory in China’s Zhengzhou after police and guards were filmed thrashing employees inside the plant which sparked an employee exodus this week, the Wall Street Journal said in a report.

To restore calm, Foxconn said that it will offer a 10,000 yuan payment, equivalent to $1,400, to recruits who wanted to quit their jobs and return home, the Wall Street Journal said in its report citing text messages to new recruits which were sent by the company’s human resources department.

The plant is operated by Foxconn Technology Group and the majority of the world’s iPhone 14 models are being made at the plant. The clashes erupted on Tuesday as workers were angered over delayed bonus payments and the working conditions inside the plant. Employees were frustrated because the factory has been battling an outbreak of Covid-19 for more than a month.

Workers were seen rushing past security guards clad in all-white PPE and in some cases clashes and fistfights between workers and police officers were also reported.

Apple said that its staff at Zhengzhou site remains stationed and is closely working with Foxconn to ensure that the concerns of the employees are addressed. Foxconn said there was an input error in the computer system during the onboarding process which led to a chaos as newly hired employees received contracts intended for existing employees, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Foxconn said recruits will be paid what was agreed upon and in line with official recruitment posters, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Workers speaking to the news agency said many of them took up the offer and queued up with their belongings before buses leaving the plant on Thursday morning. There were several livestreams from the plant on Chinese social media sites that showed workers leaving.

A worker said he waited for more than an hour to get a company bus which later dropped him and his colleagues off. He confirmed that he received one instalment of the payment.

The exodus is likely to impact Apple’s iPhone 14 production. The company warned earlier that shipments of iPhone models will be lower than expected due to disruptions at the plant. However, even before the unrest, Covid outbreaks also contributed to the impact on production capacity by 10%, the Wall Street Journal said citing experts.

Apple is looking to boost capacity outside China, particularly in India and Vietnam to minimise the impact. Apple is trying to increase production at other plants in China following the Covid-19 outbreak in Zhengzhou.

Foxconn and Apple have kept production of Apple’s iPhones ongoing despite China’s Covid Zero policies by operating under closed-loop systems which means employees live and work in bubbles to reduce the spread of infections. The plant housed more than 200,000 workers.

A Covid outbreak saw workers forced into empty apartment buildings or to accommodations near the plant. Foxconn tightened Covid restrictions to keep assembly lines turning and aimed to meet production demands but workers left in thousands fearing Covid. There were also rumours that those infected were being allowed to work to ensure targets are met.

Human rights groups and experts from related fields told the WSJ and other news agencies that they were surprised to see police being deployed to ensure workers remained inside the plant and went on about their jobs to meet the production targets.

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