Foxconn has offered to pay newly hired workers 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to quit and leave the world’s largest iPhone assembly plant in a bid to crack down protests that have seen hundreds of clashes with security forces within the confines of central China.
The Apple supplier made the offer on Wednesday following 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 post, seen by CNN, the company urged workers to “please 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 completely.
The protest erupted on Tuesday evening over the terms of new recruit and Covid-related payment packages concerns about their living conditions. The scenes turned increasingly violent on Wednesday as workers clashed with large numbers 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 were seen knocking down fences, throwing bottles and barriers at officers, and smashing and overturning police vehicles.
The protest largely died down around 10 p.m. Wednesday as workers returned to their dormitories, having received Foxconn’s offer of payment and fearing a tougher crackdown from authorities, a witness told CNN.
The Zhengzhou factory was hit by a Covid outbreak in October, forcing it to close and leading to a mass exodus of workers fleeing the outbreak. Foxconn later launched a vast recruitment campaign, in which more than 100,000 people registered to fill the advertised positions, Chinese state media reported.
According to a document outlining the salary package for new hires seen by CNN, workers were promised a bonus of 3,000 yuan after 30 days of work, and an additional 3,000 yuan to be paid after a total of 60 days.
However, according to one worker, after arriving at the factory, the new hires were told by Foxconn that they would only receive the first bonus on March 15 and the second installment in May – meaning they have to work for the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins in January 2023, to get the first of the bonus payments.
“The new hires had to work more days to get the bonus they were promised, so they felt cheated,” the worker told CNN.
In a statement Thursday, Foxconn said it fully understands new hires’ concerns about “potential changes in subsidy policy,” which it attributed to “a technical error (that) occurred during the process. of integration”.
“We apologize for an input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual salary is the same as agreed,” he said.
Foxconn communicated with employees and assured them that salaries and bonuses would be paid “in accordance with company policies”, he said.
Apple, for which Foxconn manufactures a line of products, told CNN Business that its employees were on the ground at the Zhengzhou plant.
“We are reviewing the situation and working closely with Foxconn to ensure their employees’ concerns are addressed,” he said in a statement.
As of Thursday morning, some workers who had agreed to leave had received the first part of the payment, a worker said in a live stream, which showed workers queuing outside. pass Covid tests while waiting for the departure of the buses. Later in the day, live streams showed long lines of workers boarding buses.
But for some, the troubles are far from over. After being driven to Zhengzhou train station, many were unable to get tickets to return home, another worker said in a live broadcast on Thursday afternoon. Like him, thousands of workers were stuck at the station, he said, as he turned his camera to show the large crowds.
Zhengzhou is set to impose a five-day lockdown in its city districts, including the train station, from midnight Friday, authorities had announced earlier.
The protest began Tuesday evening outside worker dormitories on Foxconn’s sprawling campus, with hundreds of people marching and chanting slogans including “Down with Foxconn,” according to social media videos and testimony. 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 when large numbers of security forces, most covered in white hazmat suits and some holding shields and batons, were deployed to the scene. Videos showed columns of police vehicles, some emblazoned with “SWAT”, arriving on campus, which is normally home to some 200,000 workers.
Other workers joined the protest after seeing live streams on video platforms Kuaishou and Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, the worker told CNN. Many livestreams have been cut or censored. Online searches for “Foxconn” in Chinese have been restricted.
Some protesters marched to the main gate of the production plant compound, located in an area separate from the workers’ dormitories, in an attempt to block assembly work, the worker said.
Other protesters went a step further by breaking into the production compound. They smashed Covid test booths, glass doors and billboards at restaurants in the production area, according to the worker.
Having worked at the Zhengzhou plant for six years, he said he was now deeply disappointed with Foxconn and planned to quit. With a basic monthly salary of 2,300 yuan, he earned between 4,000 and 5,000 yuan a month, including overtime, 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, but he was assimilated by the Chinese Communist Party and became so cruel and inhumane. I feel very sad about this.
Although he is not one of the new recruits, he protests in their support, adding: “If today I keep silent about the suffering of others, who will speak for me tomorrow?