Protests Erupt At China iPhone Factory Over COVID, Pay

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Videos and reports show a worker-led protest springing up at one of Apple’s main arteries of iPhone production in Zhengzhou, China early Wednesday morning, Bloomberg reported.

Courtesy Company

iPhone 14.

The protests happened because of concerns about pay that did not reach workers and anxiety about contracting the coronavirus amid a lockdown at the factory campus, an anonymous source told the outlet.

Apple’s factory in Zhengzhou, China has been called “iPhone City” and is responsible for producing about half of the company’s iPhones, per the New York Times.

At the same time, Xi Jinping’s government in China has instituted a “zero COVID” policy that involves sweeping lockdowns where there are outbreaks. This has been a pain point for citizens, who in Shanghai in the spring, for example, complained about a lack of access to food, and to supply chains, which have been rocked by the factory disruptions.

Related: Apple Says COVID-19 Restrictions in China Will Delay iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max

At this factory, in particular, tensions have already reportedly been increasing between the factory operator, Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, and its workers. People who work at the factory reportedly left on foot in October, concerned about strict lockdown policies amid an outbreak at the factory. Reuters then reported Foxconn was offering bonuses for people to come back.

The factory has been operating in a “COVID bubble,” of sorts for “weeks,” Bloomberg noted.

It’s unclear what the issues about pay that arose Wednesday exactly where. Foxconn didn’t respond right away to a request for comment but told Bloomberg employees who had come back had criticized bonus policies. The company claimed to the outlet it followed its contractual agreements as far as pay.

“With regards to the violence, we are continuing to communicate with workers and the government, to avoid a recurrence,” the company told Bloomberg.

Videos showed what appeared to be hundreds of workers physically pushing aside guards in white outfits, who in one video hit a worker with sticks.

Workers also yelled “fight, fight,” the outlet wrote. In another video of an uncertain date there appears to be workers with a supervisor criticizing the lack of COVID test results.

“You are sending us to death,” one person said in the video, per the outlet.

Other posted videos of the event:

This factory has a history of intense working conditions, with suicides reported at the factory back in 2013.

Apple also previously said due to China’s zero covid policy, its holiday shipments of 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max models would be delayed. This episode further highlighted the tensions between the virus and worker conditions.

Barry Naughton, a professor at the University of California San Diego who studies China, told Bloomberg: “The tension is that Beijing wants both Covid Zero and full economic growth… It’s kind of impossible.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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