Foxconn Apologizes After Workers Beaten In iPhone Factory Protests

The company that assembles Apple’s iPhones apologized Thursday for a wage dispute that sparked worker protests at a factory where anti-virus controls have slowed production.

The workers complained that Foxconn changed their wage conditions to lure them to the factory in downtown Zhengzhou. Foxconn is trying to rebuild the workforce after workers walked out last month amid complaints about unsafe conditions.

Videos on social media showed police wearing white protective suits kicking and slapping workers during the protest that broke out on Tuesday and continued into the next day.

Foxconn, a major contract manufacturer of smartphones and other electronics for Apple and other global brands, blamed a “technical error” in the hiring process and said they would be paid what they had been promised.

“We apologize for the input system error that occurred on the computers and we confirm that the actual payment is the same as what was agreed and the official rental posters,” said the company’s statement. It promised to “try its best to resolve the concerns and legitimate needs of the workers.”

The dispute comes as the ruling Communist Party tries to contain the rise in coronavirus cases without shutting down factories, as it did in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Its tactics include “closed-loop management,” or having employees stay at their workplaces without outside contact.

Authorities promised last month to reduce economic disruption by cutting quarantine periods and making other changes to China’s “zero-COVID” programs, which aim to isolate all cases. Still, the surge in infections has prompted authorities to cut off access to neighborhoods and factories and close office buildings, shops and restaurants in many parts of the city.

On Thursday, people in eight counties of Zhengzhou with a population of 6.6 million were told to stay at home for five days. Daily mass testing was ordered in the “war of extermination” against the virus.

Apple previously warned that iPhone 14 deliveries would be delayed after workers walked out of the Zhengzhou factory and access to the industrial zone surrounding the facility was suspended following the outbreak of violence.

To attract new workers, Foxconn offered CNY 25,000 (about Rs. 2.8 lakh) for two months of work, according to workers, or about 50 percent more than news reports say its highest salary is usually.

The workers complained that when they arrived they were told that they had to work for another two months at a lower salary in order to get higher wages, according to the worker, Li Sanshan.

Foxconn offered CNY 10,000 (about Rs. 1.1 lakh) to new hires who chose to leave, financial newspaper Cailianshe reported, citing anonymous agents.

Foxconn’s statement on Thursday said the departing workers would receive an unspecified “stipend” but gave no details. It promised “full support” to those who stayed.

The protests in Zhengzhou come amid public frustration over restrictions that have confined millions of people to their homes. Videos on social media show residents in some areas tearing down barriers set up to enforce neighborhood closures.

Foxconn, which is headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan, previously denied what it said in an online comment that infected workers were living in factory dormitories.

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