Foxconn has offered to pay newly hired workers 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to walk out and leave the world’s largest iPhone assembly factory, in a bid to quell protests that saw hundreds of people face off with security forces at the compound in central China.
The Apple supplier 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 from its human resources department to workers.
In the message, seen by CNN, the company urged workers to “go back to your 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.
The protest broke out on Tuesday night over the terms of the payment packages for new hires and related to Covid-19. concerns about their living conditions. The scenes turned increasingly violent on Wednesday as workers clashed in large numbers of security forces, including SWAT team officers.
Videos circulating on social media showed groups of law enforcement officers dressed in hazmat suits kicking and beating protesters with batons and metal rods. Some workers have been seen knocking down fences, throwing bottles and barriers at officers and smashing and overturning police vehicles.
The protest largely ended around 10pm on Wednesday as workers returned to their dormitories, having received Foxconn’s payment offer and fearing a tougher crackdown from the authorities, he said. tell a witness to CNN.
The Zhengzhou plant was hit by a Covid outbreak in October, forcing it to close and causing 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 pay package for the new hires seen by CNN, the workers were promised a 3,000 yuan bonus after 30 days on the job, with another 3,000 yuan to be paid after a total of 60 days .
However, according to one worker, after arriving at the plant, Foxconn told the new recruits that they would only receive the first bonus on March 15 and the second installment in May, meaning they would have to work during the holiday of the Lunar New Year. which starts in January 2023, to get the first of the bonus payments.
“The new recruits had to work extra days to get the bonus they were promised, so they felt cheated,” the worker told CNN.
In a statement Thursday, Foxconn said it fully understood the new recruits’ concerns about “possible changes in 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 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,” he said.
Apple, for which Foxconn makes 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 walk had received the first part of their payment, one worker said in a live broadcast, which showed workers queuing outdoors. to do the Covid tests while waiting for the buses to leave. Later in the day, live broadcasts showed long lines of workers boarding buses.
But for some, the problem is far from over. After being driven to Zhengzhou Railway Station, many were unable to get a ticket home, another worker said in a live broadcast on Thursday afternoon. Like him, thousands of workers were trapped at the station, he said, as he panned the camera to show the huge crowds.
Zhengzhou is scheduled to impose a five-day lockdown in its urban districts, which include the railway station, from midnight on Friday, authorities had previously announced.
The protest began in front of workers’ dormitories on Foxconn’s sprawling campus Tuesday night, with hundreds marching and chanting slogans such as “Down with Foxconn,” according to social media videos and a witness. Videos showed workers clashing with security guards and fighting off tear gas fired by police.
The confrontation lasted until Wednesday morning. The situation quickly escalated as a large number of security forces, mostly clad in white hazmat suits and some carrying shields and batons, were deployed to the scene. The videos showed columns of police vehicles, some marked “SWAT,” arriving at the campus, which is normally home to about 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 were cut or censored. Online searches for “Foxconn” in Chinese have been restricted.
Some protesters marched to the main gate of the production facility complex, which is in an area separate from workers’ dormitories, in an attempt to block assembly work, the worker said.
Other protesters took the further step of entering the production site. According to the worker, they broke Covid testing booths, glass doors and advertising panels 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 leave. With a basic monthly salary of 2,300 yuan, he has earned between 4,000 and 5,000 yuan a month, including overtime, working 10 hours a day, 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, but he was assimilated by the Chinese Communist Party and became so cruel and inhumane. I feel very sad about that.”
Although he was not one of the new recruits, he rallied with them in support, adding: “If I remain silent today about the suffering of others, who will speak for me tomorrow?”