It looks like Foxconn’s iPhone factory workers have had enough

Workers are made at the covid mismanagement.

Workers are made at the covid mismanagement.
photo: AFP/Stringer (Getty Images)

Hundreds of workers at a major Foxconn plant appear to have erupted into violent protests.

Videos shared on social media platforms Weibo, KuaishouDuoyin, and Twitter, purportedly show workers pouring out of their dorms towards the Foxconn campus grounds in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou in the early hours of Wednesday (Nov. 23) morning. Some of them were reportedly wielding batons and using them to smash surveillance cameras and windows. footage verified by AFP showed smashed up Covid-19 testing booths and overturned vehicles. Riot police dressed in hazmat suits then stepped in and urged workers to return to their dorms.

The unrest comes as the Foxconn plant with more than 200,000 workers, which is the world’s main manufacturing site for Apple’s iPhones, has already been struggling because of China’s zero-covid policy. Workers bogged down by fatigue and resentment were protesting subpar food, denied bonuses, and more.

What’s going on at Foxconn Zhengzhou?

Earlier this month, the Zhengzhou factory made headlines for the mass exodus of its workers as it started operating under a “closed-loop” system, where living conditions were terrible, meals were delayed, and medical care lacking.

Since then, it has tried everything to populate its assembly lines, from offering subsidies and daily cash bonuses to convincing veterans to come to work. Less than a week ago, it announced a hiring drive to onboard 100,000 additional workers but pressed pause when it ran out of quarantine space.

These so-called resolutions haven’t really translated from paper to practice, though.

A worker in his 20s, who was moved from Foxconn’s Shenzhen factory to its Zhengzhou facility last week, told Rest of World reporter Viola Zhou that he was locked up in an eight-person quarantine room upon arrival, where most meals were potato and cabbage, deliveries were banned, and trash piled up in the hallway. At the assembly lines, covid patients and non-patients were mixed together. other promises of bonuses to lure them to stay are falling flat.

Workers were originally “promised a 6,000 yuan bonus for working two months…but now management said workers must stay till March,” he said, adding those who catch covid would be stripped of this pay.

Snippets of the civil unrest were shared by Open Source Intelligence Monitor, which collects and analyzeit publicly available data from various social networks and websites.

Meanwhile, communicating with the outside world is getting more difficult. Workers who tried to go live on Douyin and Kuaishou saw their live streams cut immediately, the worker told Zhou. The Weibo hashtag “Foxconn Riots” appeared to be censored online by Wednesday, the Guardian reports.

Company of interest: Apple

Taiwan-based Foxconn is Apple’s lifeline—it’s the iPhone company’s main subcontractor. The Zhengzhou plant specifically assembles more iPhones than anywhere else in the world.

Earlier, Apple acknowledged that disruptions due to Covid-19 restrictions in Zhengzhou would result in Fewer iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone Pro Max shipments than previously anticipated. Some industry-watchers pegged the fall in iPhone production at 30% after worker fled. The latest protests only add more pressure on production.

Neither Foxconn nor Apple replied to Quartz’s request for comment at the time of publishing.

Foxconn unrest is one of many against China’s zero-covid policy

As China’s largest private sector employer with a headcount exceeding one million, protests at Foxconn’s site are telling of conditions across the country.

Indeed, tensions over draconian covid rules have been spilling over in multiple regions. Residents of Guangzhou violated compulsory lockdowns and clashed with the police. In the city’s Haizhu district, home to China’s biggest fabric market, textile workers revolted. In recent weeks, protests have also broken out in Urumqi, ghoulyaand the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

Despite the public frustration mounting, China has been doubling down on the zero covid policy, rebuffing criticism of it by top World Health Organization officials as “irresponsible.” Any relaxation in the rules has so far ended up being all talk and no action.

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