Foxconn has offered to pay newly hired workers 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to quit and leave the world’s largest iPhone assembly factory, in a bid to quell protests that have seen hundreds clash with security forces in the compound in central China.
Supplier Apple made the offer on Wednesday after dramatic scenes of violent protests at its campus in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, in a text message sent by its human resources department to workers.
In the message, seen by CNN, the company urged workers to “please return to your dormitories” on campus. He also promised to pay 8,000 yuan if they agreed to leave Foxconn, and another 2,000 yuan after they boarded a bus to leave the sprawling site.
The protest broke out on Tuesday evening over the terms of the payment packages of the new hires and in relation to Covid. concerns about their living conditions. Scenes became increasingly violent on Wednesday as workers clashed with large numbers of security forces, including SWAT team officers.
Videos circulating on social media show groups of law enforcement officers dressed in hazmat suits kicking and hitting protesters with batons and metal rods. Some workers were seen breaking down fences, throwing bottles and barriers at officers and crashing and overturning police vehicles.
The protest largely ended around 10 p.m. Wednesday, as workers returned to their dormitories after receiving Foxconn’s payment offer and fearing a tougher crackdown from authorities, a witness told CNN.
The Zhengzhou plant was hit by a Covid outbreak in October, which forced it to close and led to a mass exodus of workers fleeing the outbreak. Foxconn later launched a massive recruitment drive, in which more than 100,000 people signed up to fill advertised positions, Chinese state media reported.
According to a document setting out the salary package of new hires seen by CNN, the workers were promised a bonus of 3,000 yuan after 30 days of work, with another 3,000 yuan to be paid after a total of 60 days.
However, according to a worker, after arriving at the plant, Foxconn told the new recruits that they would receive the first bonus only on March 15, and the second part of May – that is, they would have to work at through the lunar year festival. which begins in January 2023, to get the first of the bonus payments.
“The new recruits have to work more days to get the bonus they were promised, so they feel cheated,” the worker told CNN.
In a statement Thursday, Foxconn said it fully understood the concerns of new recruits about “possible changes in the subsidy policy,” which it blamed on “a technical error (that) occurred during the onboarding process.”
“We apologize for an input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual payment is the same as agreed,” he said.
Foxconn was communicating with employees and assuring them that wages and bonuses would be paid “in accordance with company policies,” he said.
Apple, for which Foxconn manufactures a range of products, told CNN Business that its employees were on the ground at the Zhengzhou facility.
“We are reviewing the situation and working closely with Foxconn to ensure that the concerns of its employees are addressed,” it said in a statement.
By Thursday morning, some workers who had agreed to leave had received the first part of the payment, one worker said in a livestream, which showed workers lining up outside. to take Covid tests while waiting for the departing bus. Later in the day, livestreams showed long lines of workers boarding buses.
But for some, the problem is far away. After driving to the Zhengzhou train station, many were unable to get a ticket home, another worker said in a livestream Thursday afternoon. Like him, thousands of workers were trapped in the station, he said, as he turned his camera to show the large crowd.
Zhengzhou will impose a five-day lockdown in its urban districts, which includes the train station, starting at midnight on Friday, authorities had previously announced.
The protest began outside worker dormitories on Foxconn’s sprawling campus on Tuesday night, with hundreds marching and chanting slogans including “Down with Foxconn,” according to social media videos and a witness account. Videos show workers clashing with security guards and fighting off tear gas fired by police.
The clash lasted until Wednesday morning. The situation quickly escalated as a large number of security forces, most covered in white hazmat suits and some with shields and batons, were deployed on the scene. The videos show convoys of police vehicles, some marked “SWAT,” arriving at the campus, usually home to about 200,000 workers.
More workers joined the protest after seeing livestreams on video platforms Kuaishou and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, the worker told CNN. Many livestreams were cut or censored. Online searches for “Foxconn” in Chinese have been limited.
Some protesters marched to the main gate of the production facility, which is in an area separate from the workers’ dormitories, in an attempt to block the assembly work, the worker said.
Other protesters took the further step of entering the production compound. They destroyed Covid test booths, glass doors and advertising panels in the restaurants in the production area, according to the worker.
After working at the Zhengzhou plant for six years, he said he was now very disappointed with Foxconn and was considering leaving. With a basic monthly salary of 2,300 yuan, he earned between 4,000 yuan and 5,000 yuan a month, including overtime pay, working 10 hours a day and seven days a week during the pandemic.
“Foxconn is a Taiwanese company,” he said. “Not only did he not spread Taiwan’s values of democracy and freedom to the mainland, he was assimilated by the Chinese Communist Party and became so cruel and inhumane. I feel very sad about this.”
Although he was not one of the new recruits, he protested with them in support, adding: “If today I remain silent about the suffering of others, who will speak for me tomorrow?”