Protests, Injuries Reported At Foxconn’s iPhone Factory In China

Protests and injuries reported outside Foxconn’s troubled Zhengzhou iPhone factory in China, after workers allegedly clashed with police.

Reuters reported, citing footage uploaded to social media, that hundreds of workers joined protests at the world’s largest iPhone plant in China, with some men smashing surveillance cameras and windows.

The BBC meanwhile reported that those people who were livestreaming the protests said that workers were beaten by Chinese riot police and there were some injuries.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro, Pro Max

Injuries reported

A newly recruited employee told the BBC he visited the protest scene on Wednesday where he saw “one man with blood over his head lying on the ground.”

“I didn’t know the exact reason why people are protesting but they are mixing us new workers with old workers who were [Covid] positive,” he told the BBC.

Reuters meanwhile noted that the clashes at the massive factory in Zhengzhou city mark an escalation of unrest at the location.

The trigger for the protests, which began early on Wednesday, appeared to be a plan to delay bonus payments, many of the demonstrators said on livestream feeds, Reuters noted.

The uploaded videos could not be immediately verified by Reuters.

“Give us our pay!”, chanted workers who were surrounded by people in full hazmat suits, some carrying batons, according to footage from one video.

Other footage showed tear gas being deployed and workers taking down quarantine barriers. Some workers had complained they were forced to share dormitories with colleagues who had tested positive for Covid-19.

Foxconn was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement it had fulfilled its payment contracts and that reports of infected staff living on campus with new recruits were “untrue.”

“Regarding any violence, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” the company added.

A source familiar with the situation in Zhengzhou told Reuters production at the plant was unaffected by the worker unrest and output remained “normal.”

Foxconn reportedly aims to resume full production at the Zhengzhou iPhone plant by the second half of November.

Factory lockdown

Earlier this week the head of one of the largest electrical retail chains in the United States warned about shortages of the iPhone 14 in the holiday season.

Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said on Tuesday that Apple’s high-end iPhones like the iPhone 14 Pro will be in short supply at stores this holiday season, after iPhone production was significantly impacted by a Covid-19 outbreak and strict regional lockdown at the world’s largest iPhone factory in China.

Earlier this month, Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory that is sometimes referred to as “iPhone City”, was placed in a seven day lockdown.

Image credit: World Health Organisation

Normally the Zhengzhou plant has 200,000 workers, who produce a staggering 500,000 iPhones a day.

Chinese authorities took the decision to lockdown the whole area after the Taiwanese company had tried to control a Covid outbreak at the world’s largest iPhone factory in October and early November.

However before the lockdown kicked in, local reports suggested that significant numbers of factory workers at the Zhengzhou plant had fled the site, as Coronavirus cases rose, due to fears of lockdowns or Covid-19 outbreaks.

That lockdown itself lasted until Wednesday 9 November, and it did not appear to stop cases spreading however, with infections identified in October and November.

With the lockdown now over at the facility, production is still down due to a lack of staff (a lot of whom had fled).

Capacity at the factory, which is currently operating in a so-called closed loop operation, could be down by as much as 30 percent this month, it has been reported in media outlets.

Foxconn previously said it will do everything it possibly can to fulfil its order book, and last week Chinese officials reportedly began drafting in retired members of the military and government to help at the factory.

Officials have been accused of “performative lockdown lifting” amid reports people’s freedoms were still restricted inside the plant, in order to isolate the factory workers from the surrounding region.

Apple has also warned customers of longer wait times for new iPhones as the lockdown affected shipments of the latest generation of the device, introduced in September.

The factory is critical to Apple, as about 70 percent of iPhone assembly takes place at the Zhengzhou complex.

Apple has recently began shifting some iPhone 14 production to factories in India.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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