Protests Erupt at Foxconn Plant in China Over Delayed Pay, Working Conditions

Foxconn workers at the world’s largest iPhone plant in Zhengzhou, China have become violent as they clashed with police and health officials on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Credit: Reuters via The New York Times

The protests reportedly started after workers learned the Taiwanese contract manufacturer changed arrangements regarding pay and working conditions. Reuters on Thursday reported that the situation is now under control, with talks between the two sides now ongoing.


Footage of the incidents has surfaced online, some of which have gone viral on Chinese social media sites. One clip shows hundreds of workers marching down a road, chucking debris at hazmat suit-wearing anti-riot police who were there to control the situation. But tensions seemingly escalated, with brawls between the two sides breaking out. Another clip, meanwhile, shows workers destroying COVID-19 testing kiosks while shouting "smash it up".

Foxconn disclosed in a statement that "some new hires" had complained to the company about work allowances, which lines up with what one former worker said. According to the anonymous worker, the arrangements for the "retention allowance" that the company promised had been changed. Instead of needing to stay until 15 February 2023, the workers now needed to stay until 15 March 2023 to receive the bonus.


"The allowance has always been honoured based on contractual obligations and [we] will continue to communicate with relevant colleagues [on the issue]," said Foxconn.


Other workers said they protested over food shortages and living arrangements. Some workers allege that they were forced to share dormitories with those who have tested positive for COVID-19. Foxconn denied the claim, maintaining that all living facilities had been disinfected before the new hires moved in.


"They quarantine us but don’t provide food," said one worker during a live stream as reported by the BBC (via The Verge). "If they do not address our needs, we will keep fighting."

The Zhengzhou plant has been operating in a "closed-loop" system since late October after a COVID-19 outbreak hit the city. The strict quarantine measures required hundreds of thousands of workers to live and work on-site to prevent further spread of the virus. Not everyone, however, wanted to cooperate, with an undisclosed number of workers having since fled the plant.


The protests come just days after it was reported that Foxconn received over 100,000 applications from recruits willing to work at the iPhone assembly plant. The local government helped in the recruitment efforts, assisting the company in organising campaigns across the province and helping new workers accomplish quarantine requirements.


Plenty of clips of the protests have already been taken down from Chinese social media sites, though The Wall Street Journal managed to corroborate the events shown with workers at the site. The hashtag "Foxconn Riots" supposedly also trended on Chinese social media but was later censored by the country's internet watchdogs.

 
  • Foxconn workers at the world’s largest iPhone plant in Zhengzhou, China have become violent as they clashed with police and health officials.

  • The protests reportedly started over delayed pay, food shortage and living arrangements.

  • However, the situation is now under control, with talks between the sides ongoing.

  • Footage of the protests has surfaced online, some of which have gone viral on Chinese social media sites.

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