Apple's major supplier Foxconn said on Thursday a "technical error" occurred when hiring new recruits at a COVIDhit iPhone factory in China and apologised to workers after the company was rocked by fresh labour unrest.
Apple's major supplier Foxconn said on Thursday a "technical error" occurred when hiring new recruits at a COVID-hit iPhone factory in China and apologised to workers after the company was rocked by fresh labour unrest.
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According to a Bloomberg report, the company has also begun offering 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to any workers who choose to leave. The sum will be paid out in two instalments.
The payout, which in general exceeds a month’s wages for Foxconn’s blue-collar staff, is likely to placate some employees who staged the protest.
"The intent was also to usher out recent employees that the local government helped recruit, many of whom fueled tensions among the ranks. The company will replace departing staff, though it may take time," the report added.
Men smashed surveillance cameras and windows as hundreds of workers protested at the plant in Zhengzhou city on Wednesday, in rare scenes of open dissent in China sparked by claims of overdue pay and frustration over severe COVID-19 restrictions.
Workers said in videos circulated on social media that they had been informed that Foxconn intended to delay bonus payments. Some workers also complained they were forced to share dormitories with colleagues who had tested positive for COVID.
"Our team has been looking into the matter and discovered a technical error occurred during the onboarding process," Foxconn said in a statement.
"We apologise for an input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual pay is the same as agreed and the official recruitment posters."
The largest protests had died down by Thursday and the company was communicating with employees engaged in smaller protests, a Foxconn source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The Taiwanese company said it would try to solve concerns and meet worker demands, with "corresponding care subsidies" offered to those who want to return to their hometowns.
The Zhengzhou plant employs more than 200,000 people to make Apple Inc devices including the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.
The person said the company had reached "initial agreements" with employees to resolve the dispute and production at the plant continued on Thursday.
Even though infection numbers are low by global standards, China has stuck with its zero-COVID approach, a signature policy of President Xi Jinping that officials argue saves lives and prevents the medical system from being overwhelmed. As of Tuesday, there were 28,883 new domestically transmitted cases, official data showed.
Residents are increasingly getting fed up with nearly three years of restrictions, and Wednesday's protest at the Foxconn factory comes weeks after now-deleted social media images showed crowds crashing through barriers and clashing with hazmat-suit-clad workers.
The rising case numbers are also testing China's resolve to avoid one-size-fits-all measures such as mass lockdowns to curb outbreaks and rely on recently tweaked COVID rules instead.
However, unofficial lockdowns have increased, including in residential buildings and compounds in Beijing, where case numbers hit a new high on Tuesday. Officials there have shut malls, parks and museums, and urged residents of certain neighbourhoods not to leave, turning the usually bustling capital into a ghost town.
In Shanghai, a city of 25 million that was locked down for two months earlier this year, China's top auto association said on Wednesday it would cancel the second day of the China Automotive Overseas Development Summit being held there over COVID concerns.
Authorities there also announced fresh restrictions on arrivals, while Chengdu, with 428 cases on Tuesday, became the latest city to announce mass testing.
Major manufacturing hubs Chongqing and Guangzhou have seen persistently high infection numbers for days, accounting for most of China's caseload. Cases in Guangzhou fell slightly on Tuesday to 7,970 and authorities have said infections continue to be concentrated in key areas of Haizhu district.
Investors who last week were hopeful that China would ease restrictions soon have now grown worried that the latest wave of infections could slow the economic reopening. Many analysts say a significant reopening is unlikely before March or April.
First Published: IST