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Apple supplier faces worker revolt in locked down China factory

Apple supplier faces worker revolt in locked-down China factory

Apple supplier faces worker revolt in locked-down China factory
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By CNBCTV18.COMMay 27, 2022 5:54:35 PM IST (Published)

Trapped in a bubble for almost two months, locked down by government decree and walled off from the outside world, Shanghai-based Quanta Computer Inc’s mostly low-wage workers are demanding more freedom and beginning to revolt against their overseers.

Violent clashes, mounting infections and vacant factory floors: the turmoil that’s engulfed tens of thousands of workers at an Apple Inc. supplier in Shanghai is a troubling symptom of China’s extreme efforts to keep factories humming during its worst COVID outbreak since 2020.

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Trapped in a bubble for almost two months, locked down by government decree and walled off from the outside world, Quanta Computer Inc’s mostly low-wage workers are demanding more freedom and beginning to revolt against their overseers, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified for fear of reprisals.
Hundreds of workers have clashed with guards. A large contingent, worried that their supplies would run out should the lockdown persist, flooded past guarded isolation barriers earlier this month in search of daily necessities, according to several employees. Over the past weekend, media reports went viral of a large group storming a dormitory housing Quanta’s Taiwanese managers after a dispute over the prolonged lockdown and pay — triggering an hours-long standoff confirmed by several workers within the compound.
The incidents underscore how sentiment is souring on a lockdown that’s up-ended the lives of 25 million Shanghainese since March.
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“People are getting frustrated and tired of these controls,” one of the workers said. “That’s inevitable, especially when there is no timeline on when all this will end.”
Quanta and Apple representatives declined to comment for this story. In April, Quanta said in a filing to the Taiwan exchange that it was halting production at its Shanghai site and adopting measures in compliance with the local government’s regulations to protect its staff.
The upheaval at one of the most prominent manufacturers operating out of the affluent eastern Chinese region adds to the growing tumult across society and industry over virus curbs. The speed with which the situation escalated in Shanghai — home to marquee names from Tesla Inc. to General Motors Co. — is a stark warning to policy makers trying to stamp out infections through unprecedented quarantine measures. Worker unrest risks disrupting a vast manufacturing sector at a time China’s struggling to meet its official 5.5 percent growth target.
It’s not just labourers. In past months, college students in Beijing have rebelled; housing compounds have staged protests; and social media users posting critical videos have tried to outwit an army of censors.
Yet the chaos at Quanta exposes a more consequential breakdown in Beijing’s Covid Zero strategy: China’s mandarins have insisted that the world’s No. 2 economy can keep going amid lockdowns, through measures like those now in force at the iPhone maker. The reality is far more complicated.
It’s unclear how widespread factory unrest is at the moment, but economists say Quanta is unlikely to be an isolated incident. Employees at the Shanghai factory who talked with Bloomberg News by phone asked for anonymity because they had not been authorized to speak publicly and feared retribution.
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