Foxconn has offered to pay newly hired workers 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to resign and leave the world’s largest iPhone assembly plant in a bid to crack down on protests that have seen hundreds of clashes with security forces at the complex. in central China.
Supplier Apple made the offer 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 the dorms” on campus. He also promised to pay them 8,000 yuan if they agreed to leave Foxconn, and another 2,000 yuan after they boarded buses to leave the sprawling site altogether.
The protest erupted on Tuesday night over the terms of the new hire and Covid-related pay packages concerns about their living conditions. Scenes turned increasingly violent on Wednesday as workers clashed with large numbers of the 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 bars. Some workers were seen tearing down fences, throwing bottles and barriers at officers, and smashing and overturning police vehicles.
The protest largely subsided around 10 p.m. Wednesday as workers returned to their dormitories, having received Foxconn’s offer to pay and fearing a tougher crackdown by authorities, a witness told CNN. .
The Zhengzhou plant was hit by a Covid outbreak in October, forcing it into lockdown and leading to a mass exodus of workers fleeing the epidemic. Foxconn later launched a massive recruitment drive, in which more than 100,000 people have signed up to fill the advertised positions, Chinese state media reported.
According to a document outlining the new hires’ wage package seen by CNN, workers were promised a bonus of 3,000 yuan after 30 days on the job, with another 3,000 yuan to be paid after a total of 60 days.
However, according to a worker, after they arrived at the plant, Foxconn told new hires they would only receive the first bonus on March 15 and the second installment in May, meaning they had to work during the Lunar New Year holiday. starting in January 2023, to get the first of the bonus payments.
“The new recruits had to work more days to get the bonus they were promised, so they felt cheated,” the worker told CNN.
In a statement on Thursday, Foxconn said it fully understands the new recruits’ concerns about “possible changes in benefit policy,” which it attributed to “a technical error (that) occurred during the onboarding process.”
“We apologize for an input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual pay is the same as agreed,” he said.
Foxconn was communicating with employees and assuring them that salaries and bonuses would be paid “in accordance with company policies,” it said.
Apple, for which Foxconn makes a range of products, told CNN Business its employees were grounded at its Zhengzhou facility.
“We are reviewing the situation and working closely with Foxconn to ensure their employee concerns are addressed,” it said in a statement.
Some workers who had agreed to leave had received the first part of their payment on Thursday morning, one worker said in a live stream, which showed workers queuing outdoors to get Covid tested while waiting for departing buses. Later in the day, live streams showed long lines of workers boarding buses.
But for some, the problem is far from over. After being taken to Zhengzhou railway station, many were unable to find a ticket to go home, another worker said in a live stream on Thursday afternoon. Like him, thousands of workers were stranded at the station, he said, as he turned his camera to show the large crowd.
Zhengzhou is set to impose a five-day lockdown in its urban districts, including the railway station, starting at midnight on Friday, authorities had earlier announced.
The protest began Tuesday night in front of workers’ dormitories on the sprawling Foxconn campus, with hundreds marching and chanting slogans including “Down with Foxconn,” according to social media videos and an account from a witness. Videos showed workers clashing with security guards and fending off tear gas fired by police.
The standoff lasted until Wednesday morning. The situation quickly escalated as large numbers of security forces, most clad in white hazmat suits and some with shields and batons, were deployed to the scene. The videos showed lines of police vehicles, some marked “SWAT,” arriving at the campus, which is normally home to some 200,000 workers.
More workers joined the protest after watching live streams on video platforms Kuaishou and Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, the worker told CNN. Many live streams have been cut or censored. Online searches for “Foxconn” in Chinese have been limited.
Some protesters marched to the main gate of the manufacturing plant complex, which is in an area separate from the workers’ dormitories, in an attempt to block assembly work, the worker said.
Other protesters took the extra step of breaking into the manufacturing complex. According to the worker, they destroyed the Covid test booths, glass doors and advertising hoardings in restaurants in the production area.
Having worked at the Zhengzhou plant for six years, he said he was now deeply disappointed with Foxconn and planned to step down. With a basic monthly salary of 2,300 yuan, he earned between 4,000 and 5,000 yuan a month, including overtime, by working 10-hour days and seven days a week during the pandemic.
“Foxconn is a Taiwanese company,” he said. “Not only did it not spread Taiwan’s values of democracy and freedom to the mainland, but it was assimilated by the Communist Party of China and became so cruel and inhumane. I feel very sad about this.
Though she was not one of the new recruits, she protested to them in support, adding, “If I keep silent about the suffering of others today, who will speak for me tomorrow?”