In an attempt to suppress violent protests at the world’s largest iPhone factory in China, Foxconn offered to pay newly recruited workers $1,400 (10,000 yuan) to leave the premises.
Foxconn, the apple supplier, made the offer on Wednesday night after clashes between the workers and security took a dramatic and violent turn on its campus in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province.
A text message sent from its human resources department to workers urged employees to “please return to [their] dormitories” on the campus, promising to pay them 8,000 yuan if they agreed to quit Foxconn, and another 2,000 yuan after boarding buses to leave the sprawling site altogether.
According to videos circulating on social media, groups of law enforcement and SWAT officers covered in hazmat suits kicked and hit protesters with batons and metal rods.
Workers were witnessed tearing down fences, throwing bottles and items at officers, and smashing and overturning police vehicles.
One worker told CNN that other employees also joined protests after seeing livestreams on Kuaishou, a video platform, and Douyin, the Chinese name for TikTok.
The protest tailed off around 10 p.m. on Wednesday as workers returned to their dormitories upon Foxconn’s payment offer and fear of harsher crackdowns by authorities.
Delay in bonus payments by Foxconn triggered protests
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, the iPhone factory was forced into a lockdown, resulting in many workers fleeing the outbreak. Foxconn later launched a massive recruitment drive, attracting over one hundred thousand people who signed up to fill the advertised positions.
The job listing indicated a salary package for new hires which includes a $420 (3,000 yuan) bonus after thirty days on the job and another $420 (3,000 yuan) to be paid after a total of sixty days.
According to a worker, after arriving at the plant, Foxconn told new recruiters they would receive the first bonus on March 15th. The second installment would be received in May.
This implies that they must work through the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins in January 2023, to get the first of the bonus payments.
A worker told CNN, “The new recruits had to work more days to get the bonus they were promised, so they felt cheated.”
Foxconn said it fully understood the new recruits’ concerns about “possible changes in the 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,” Foxconn announced.
iPhone manufacturer Apple, handling the situation
Upon escalation of the situation, Apple, the company for which Foxconn manufactures a wide range of products, said that its employees were on the ground at the Zhengzhou facility.
Apple said in a statement, “We are reviewing the situation and working closely with Foxconn to ensure their employees’ concerns are addressed.”
Foxconn, however, said it was communicating with employees and assuring them that salaries and bonuses would be paid “in accordance with company policies.”
Some employees who had agreed to leave had received the first part of the payment on Thursday morning, a worker said in a livestream.
The video showed workers lining up outdoors to take COVID-19 tests while they waited for departing buses. Later in the day, livestreams showed long lines of workers boarding buses.
Some workers noted that the trouble is far from over, and, after being driven to the Zhengzhou train station on Thursday afternoon, many couldn’t get a ticket home, according to a worker in a livestream.
Authorities had announced earlier that China‘s city of Zhengzhou is set to impose a five-day lockdown in its urban districts. This includes the train station, where the lockdown would begin on Friday at midnight.