One of Apple’s main iPhone suppliers is paying workers to stop work and go home as they struggle to function amid labor unrest and the COVID-19 lockdown.
In a personnel announcement, Foxconn said it would offer newly hired workers at the Zhengzhou factory an 8,000 yuan ($1,100) bonus to leave immediately and a 2,000 yuan ($300) bonus if they take a bus back to their hometown. South China Morning Post. According to Bloomberg, the bonus is more than the monthly salary of Foxconn workers.
“Some workers are still worried about the coronavirus and hope to quit and go home,” Foxconn wrote in its announcement, saying it “deeply understands the concerns of its workers.”
Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The announcement came hours after reports of violent protests at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory, which employs up to 300,000 people. The workers emerged from their dormitory early Wednesday morning, angry over lost wages and worried about the spread of the COVID virus. Workers clashed with security, and riot police had to restore order.
Foxconn confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that the protests had taken place and denied that any COVID-positive workers were in its dormitories.
Zhengzhou officials announced Wednesday that the city’s urban areas will be sent into lockdown from Friday until November 29. The city, sometimes called “iPhone City” because of its key position in Apple’s supply chain, reported nearly 1,000 cases on Wednesday.
To combat the growing outbreak of COVID, Foxconn implemented COVID controls in late October, including forcing workers to eat in their dormitories. Shortly after Foxconn implemented these controls, videos emerged on Chinese social media of workers fleeing the factory, jumping over fences, and leaning on passing vehicles.
The exodus of workers forced Foxconn to turn to the government for help. Workers who fled the Foxconn factory told the South China Morning Post that local village officials called them on behalf of the company, urging them to return to work.
Apple warned earlier this month that iPhone production would be lower than expected during the holiday season due to disruptions in its factories. State media reported that Foxconn needed up to 100,000 new workers to resume full operations.
Chinese are battling COVID outbreaks across the country as cases hit their highest level this year, surpassing the previous record set in April during Shanghai’s punishing two-month lockdown. On Wednesday, 29.75 cases were reported in the country.
Widespread outbreaks are a new test of China’s “zero-virus” policy, which uses mass testing and lockdowns to completely contain epidemics.
The tough measures have been blamed for a slowdown in the Chinese economy, with both retail sales and factory activity falling over the past month. The regions, which account for a fifth of China’s GDP, are now subject to some restrictions, according to economists at Nomura.