Apple’s major supplier Foxconn said 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.
Men smashed surveillance cameras and clashed with police as hundreds of workers protested at the world’s biggest iPhone 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 on 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, referring to the hiring of new workers.
“We apologize 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 Taiwanese company said it would respect the wishes of new recruits who wanted to resign and leave the factory campus, and would offer them “care subsidies”.
In the videos circulating online on Wednesday, some workers complained they were never sure if they would get meals while in quarantine at the sprawling industrial campus in central Henan province.
The Zhengzhou plant employs more than 200,000 people to make Apple devices including the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.
Apple said it had staff at the factory and was “working closely with Foxconn to ensure their employees’ concerns are addressed”. The factory accounts for 70 percent of iPhone shipments globally.
Reuters earlier reported that iPhone output at the Zhengzhou factory could slump by as much as 30% in November following worker unrest last month, and that Foxconn aimed to resume full production there by the second half of the month.
Apple has warned it expects lower shipments of premium iPhone 14 models than previously anticipated. Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives expects the shutdowns to cost Apple about $1 billion a week in lost iPhone sales.