Foxconn offers to pay workers to leave iPhone factory after protests

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Foxconn has offered to pay newly hired workers 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to leave the world’s biggest iPhone assembly plant in a bid to quell protests that have seen hundreds of people clash with security forces in complex in 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 from its human resources department to workers.

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In the message, seen by CNN, the company asked workers to “please return to your dorms” on campus. The company also promised to pay them 8,000 yuan (US$1,116) if they agreed to leave Foxconn and another 2,000 yuan (US$279) after they boarded a bus to leave.

The protest erupted on Tuesday night and related to the terms of new hire pay packages and concerns over Covid-19 and employee safety.

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Scenes turned increasingly violent on Wednesday as workers clashed with large numbers of security forces, including SWAT team officers.

A group of security guards dressed in protective clothing kick and beat a worker lying on the ground during a protest in Foxconn, China, Nov.

Videos circulating on social media show groups of police dressed in protective clothing kicking and hitting protesters with batons and metal bars. Some workers were seen tearing down fences, throwing bottles and barriers at officers and smashing and overturning police vehicles.

The protest largely ended around 10 pm on Wednesday, when workers returned to their dorms, having been offered payment by Foxconn and fearing a tougher crackdown by authorities, a witness told CNN.

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

According to a document setting out the salary package for new hires seen by CNN, workers were promised a bonus of 3,000 yuan (US$418.8) after 30 days of work, with another 3,000 yuan to be paid after a total of 60 days.

Workers throw parts of the metal barriers they tore down at police during a protest at Foxconn in Zhengzhou, China, Nov.

However, according to a worker, after arriving at the factory, the new hires were told by Foxconn that they would only receive the first bonus on March 15 and the second installment in May – that is, they should work during the New Year holiday. Lunar, which starts in January 2023, to receive the first bonus payment.

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

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

“We apologize for a computer system input error and assure you that the actual payment is the same as agreed,” he said.

Foxconn was communicating with employees and ensuring that wages and bonuses would be paid “in line with company policies”, he said.

Apple, for which Foxconn manufactures a range of products, told CNN Business that its employees were at the Zhengzhou facility.

Workers at the world's largest iPhone factory clash with security agents during a protest in China

“We are reviewing the situation and working closely with Foxconn to ensure its employees’ concerns are addressed,” it said in a statement.

Early on Thursday, some workers who agreed to leave received the first part of their pay, a worker said on a live stream, which showed workers queuing outside to be tested for Covid as they waited for departing buses. Later in the day, live streams showed long lines of workers boarding buses.

But for some, the problem is far from over. After being taken to Zhengzhou train station, many were unable to get a ticket home, another worker said in a live broadcast on Thursday afternoon. Like him, thousands of workers were trapped in the station, he said, as he turned the camera to show the large crowds.

Zhengzhou is to impose a five-day lockdown on its urban districts, which include the train station, starting at midnight on Friday, officials announced earlier.

violent protests

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

The stalemate lasted until Wednesday morning. The situation quickly deteriorated when large numbers of police, most covered in white protective clothing and some holding shields and batons, were sent to the scene. Videos showed columns of police vehicles, some marked “SWAT”, arriving at the campus, which is normally home to around 200,000 workers.

More workers joined the protest after watching 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 have been restricted.

Some demonstrators marched to the main gate of the production facility complex, located in an area separate from the workers’ dormitories, in an attempt to block the assembly work, the worker said.

Other protesters took the initiative to invade the production complex. They smashed Covid test booths, glass doors and advertising panels in restaurants in the production area, according to the worker.

Having worked at the Zhengzhou plant for six years, he said he was now deeply disappointed in Foxconn and planned to leave. With a basic monthly salary of 2,300 yuan (US$321), he earns between 4,000 and 5,000 yuan (US$698) a month, including overtime pay, working 10 hours a day, seven days a week during the pandemic.

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

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

Source: CNN Brasil

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