Apple’s main China plant witnessed violence today as hundreds of workers clashed with guards and the police over strict COVID lockdown rules. Videos of men with sticks attacking CCTV cameras are also surfacing from the area. Apple supplier Foxconn owns the factory where the whole scene broke out. This Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou, China, is the main plant that manufactures iPhones.
Foxconn, or Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, is Apple’s largest supplier. The company manufactures roughly 70% of the total iPhones sold around the world. It handles most of the manufacturing from its Zhengzhou plant in China, which currently employs close to 2,00,000 people, according to Reuters. Foxconn also has manufacturing facilities in India and South China.
Why are Apple Foxconn plant workers fighting guards?
Bloomberg broke the story this morning, tweeting that hundreds of workers at Apple’s Foxconn plant clashed with guards over COVID lockdowns. Before today, there have been instances of Foxconn plant workers breaking down barriers and escaping the plant. This is because of the stringent COVID lockdown rules in place at the Foxconn factory.
China is still facing waves of COVID outbreak, and Zhengzhou is among the affected areas. To prevent a COVID outbreak at the factory, Foxconn is using a closed-loop operation. The company has arranged for workers to work in shifts and then sleep in the plant itself. While this is done to keep production going, plant workers have been protesting against it.
Today was reportedly one of the biggest protests staged at the facility. Hundreds of Apple Foxconn plant workers reportedly clashed with guards, pulled down barriers, and even had a close shave with the police. A Reuters report says that workers in the videos can be seen chanting, “give us our pay.”
Apple moving production to the U.S.
The COVID pandemic and now repeated protests have also put Apple into action mode. Reports claim that the company is working on acquiring chips from Arizona and diversifying its supply line. Chips aside, Apple is planning to set up regional supply chains to meet global demand for the iPhone and other Apple products.
In other words, Apple doesn’t want to rely solely on China after facing multiple delays in iPhone 14 shipments. The diversification could not only help Apple ship more efficiently but also generate some employment in all the regions where these facilities are set up.
Update: Foxconn apologizes for hiring glitch that caused riot [24 Nov. 2022]
Foxconn has apologized for a technical glitch that caused the pay delay to recruits at the plant. Reuters published the company’s official statement that says, “We apologize for an input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual pay is the same as agreed and the official recruitment posters.”
While this is one of the reasons for the unrest at Apple’s biggest iPhone manufacturing plants, it isn’t the only one. Workers also complained that they’re forced to share dormitories with other workers who tested positive for COVID-19. Foxconn also stated that it’ll offer “care subsidies” to workers who wish to resign and leave the factory campus.