Violent worker protests have erupted at the world’s largest iPhone factory in central China as authorities at the Foxconn plant struggle to contain a Covid-19 outbreak while maintaining production ahead of the peak holiday season.
Workers at the factory in Zhengzhou shared more than a dozen videos that show staff in a stand-off with lines of police armed with batons and clad in white protective gear. The videos show police beating workers, with some bleeding from their heads and others limping away from chaotic clashes.
Beijing’s strict zero-Covid regime has posed big challenges to running Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant, which typically staffs more than 200,000 workers on a large campus in the city’s suburbs.
Problems at the plant earlier this month led Apple to cut estimates for high-end iPhone 14 shipments and issue a rare warning to investors over the delays.
Two workers at the Foxconn factory said the protests broke out on Wednesday morning after Apple’s manufacturing partner attempted to deny bonuses promised to new workers put into quarantine before being sent to assembly lines.
“Initially they just went into the plant seeking an explanation from executives, but they [the executives] didn’t show their faces and instead called the police,” said one of the workers.
Another worker said there was growing discontent over the factory’s continued inability to curb a Covid outbreak, tough living conditions and fear among staff that they would test positive.
Videos show workers flipping over carts on the Foxconn campus, charging into the factory’s offices and bashing a Covid testing booth. Live streams from the scene on Wednesday afternoon showed groups of workers milling about in a courtyard between buildings. Some workers were live-streaming the protests on social media until censors stepped in to cut off the broadcasts.
Foxconn has been working with the local government in Henan province, where the plant is located, to repopulate its assembly lines with new workers after the conditions at the plant spurred a mass staff exodus late last month.
Local officials have been tasked with helping send workers to the plant, which is a big taxpayer and was responsible for 60 per cent of the province’s exports in 2019.
Foxconn and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.