Foxconn protests: iPhone factory offers to pay its workers to quit and leave Zhengzhou campus

Hong Kong
CNN Business

Foxconn has offered to pay newly recruited workers 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to walk out and leave the world’s largest iPhone assembly plant, in a bid to quell protests that saw hundreds clash with security forces at the compound in central China.

The Apple supplier made the offer on Wednesday following dramatic scenes of violent protests at its campus in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, in a text message sent by its human resources department to employees.

In the message, seen by CNN, the company urged employees to “return to your dormitories” on campus. He also promised to pay them 8,000 yuan if they agreed to give up Foxconn, and another 2,000 yuan after they boarded buses to leave the sprawling site entirely.

The protest erupted on Tuesday night over the terms of the new hires’ payment packages and related to Covid concerns about their living conditions. Scenes turned increasingly violent on Wednesday as workers clashed in large numbers security forces, including SWAT team officers.

Videos circulated on social media showed groups of law enforcement officers clad in hazmat suits kicking and hitting protesters with batons and metal rods. Some workers were seen tearing down fences, throwing bottles and barriers at officers and smashing and knocking down police vehicles.

A group of security officers clad in hazmat suits kick and beat a worker who was lying on the ground.

The protest largely subsided around 10 pm Wednesday as workers returned to their dormitories, having accepted Foxconn’s payment offer and fearing a tougher crackdown from authorities, a witness told CNN.

The Zhengzhou factory was hit by an outbreak of Covid in October, which forced it to shut down and led to a mass exodus of workers fleeing the outbreak. Foxconn later launched a massive recruitment campaign, in which more than 100,000 people registered to fill the advertised positions, Chinese state media reported.

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According to a document detailing the new hire’s pay package seen by CNN, the workers were promised a bonus of 3,000 yuan after 30 days on the job, with another 3,000 yuan to be paid after a total of 60 days.

However, according to a worker, upon arrival at the factory, Foxconn told the new recruits that they would only receive the first bonus on March 15, and the second installment in May – meaning they had to work through the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins in January 2023, to get the first of the bonuses.

“The new recruits had to work more days to get the bonus they were promised, so they felt cheated,” the worker told CNN.

Workers throw parts of the metal barriers they have torn down at the police.

In a statement Thursday, Foxconn said it fully understands the new recruits’ concerns about “possible changes in the subsidy policy,” which it blames on “a technical error (that) occurred during the onboarding process.”

“We apologize for an input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual pay is the same as agreed,” he said.

Foxconn communicated with workers and assured them that wages and bonuses would be paid “in accordance with company policies,” he said.

Apple, for which Foxconn manufactures a range of products, told CNN Business that its workers are on the ground at the Zhengzhou facility.

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“We are reviewing the situation and working closely with Foxconn to ensure that the concerns of their employees are addressed,” he said in a statement.

On Thursday morning, some workers who had agreed to leave had received the first part of the payment, an employee said in a live stream, which showed workers lining up outside to take Covid tests while waiting for buses to leave. Later in the day, live streams showed long lines of workers boarding buses.

But for some, the trouble is far from over. After being driven to Zhengzhou train station, many could not get a ticket home, another worker said in a live stream on Thursday afternoon. Like him, thousands of workers were stuck in the station, he said, as he turned his camera to show the large crowds.

Zhengzhou is set to impose a five-day shutdown in its urban areas, which includes the railway station, starting from midnight on Friday, authorities had announced earlier.

Workers face security officers suited to hazards.

The protest began outside worker dormitories on Foxconn’s sprawling campus Tuesday night, with hundreds marching and chanting slogans including “Down with Foxconn,” according to social media videos and a witness account. Videos showed workers clashing with security guards and fighting back tear gas fired by police.

The stand-off continued into Wednesday morning. The situation quickly escalated when a large number of security forces, most clad in white hazmat suits and some holding shields and batons, were dispatched to the scene. Videos showed columns of police vehicles, some marked “SWAT,” arriving at the campus, usually home to some 200,000 employees.

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More workers joined the protest after seeing live streams on video platforms Kuaishou and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, the worker told CNN. Many live streams were cut or censored. Online searches for “Foxconn” in Chinese are limited.

Some protesters marched to the main gate of the production facility compound, which is located in an area separate from the workers’ dorms, in an attempt to block assembly work, the worker said.

Other protesters took the further step of breaking into the production compound. They broke Covid testing booths, glass doors and advertising boards in restaurants in the production area, according to the worker.

After working at the Zhengzhou factory for six years, he said he is now very disappointed with Foxconn and plans to quit. With a basic monthly salary of 2,300 yuan, he has been earning between 4,000 yuan and 5,000 yuan a month, including overtime pay, working 10 hours a day and seven days a week during the pandemic.

“Foxconn is a Taiwanese company,” he said. “Not only did Taiwan’s values ​​of democracy and freedom not spread to the mainland, it was assimilated by the Chinese Communist Party and became so cruel and inhumane. I feel very sad about it.”

Although he was not one of the new recruits, he protested with them in favor, adding: “If today I remain silent about the suffering of others, who will speak for me tomorrow?”


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