Hong Kong CNN Business –
Foxconn has offered to pay newly recruited workers 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to leave the world’s largest iPhone assembly plant and leave, in a bid to quell protests that saw hundreds clash with security forces at the assembly in central China.
The Apple supplier 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 from its Human Resources department to workers.
In the message, seen by CNN, the company urged the workers to “please return to your dormitories” on campus. It also promised to pay them 8,000 yuan if they agree to leave Foxconn, and another 2,000 yuan after they board buses to leave the sprawling site altogether.
The protest broke out on Tuesday night over the terms of the payment packages of new tenants and Covid-related concerned about their living conditions. Scenes became 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 hitting protesters with batons and metal rods. Some workers were seen tearing down fences, throwing bottles and barriers at officers and smashing and overturning police cars.
The protest largely died down around 10 p.m. Wednesday as workers returned to their dormitories, having received Foxconn’s payment offer and fearing a tougher crackdown by authorities, a witness told CNN.
The Zhengzhou factory was hit by a Covid epidemic in October, which forced it to close and led to a mass exodus of workers fleeing the epidemic. Foxconn later launched a massive recruitment drive, in which more than 100,000 people signed up to fill the advertised positions, Chinese state media reported.
According to a document detailing the salary package of new employees seen by CNN, the 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 arriving at the plant, the new recruits were told by Foxconn that they would only receive the first bonus on March 15, and the second installment in May – meaning they would have to work through the Lunar New Year holiday. which starts in January 2023, to receive 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 Thursday, 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 salary is the same as agreed,” it said.
Foxconn communicated with employees and assured them that salaries and bonuses would be paid “in accordance with company policy,” it said.
Apple, for which Foxconn manufactures a variety 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 out had received the first part of the payment, a worker said in a live stream, which showed workers standing outside to take Covid tests while waiting for departing buses. Later in the day, live streams showed long lines of workers boarding buses.
But for some the problems are far from over. After driving to Zhengzhou railway station, many were unable to get a ticket home, another worker said in a live stream on Thursday afternoon. Like him, thousands of workers were stuck at the station, he said, turning his camera to see the large crowd.
Zhengzhou is set to impose a five-day lockdown in its urban districts, which include the train station, from midnight Friday, authorities had previously announced.
The protest began Tuesday night outside workers’ dormitories on the sprawling Foxconn campus, with hundreds marching and chanting slogans including “Down with Foxconn,” according to social media videos and a witness account. Videos showed workers clashing with security guards and fighting back tear gas from police.
The stand-off lasted until Wednesday morning. The situation quickly escalated as a large number of security forces, most clad in white hazmat suits and some holding shields and batons, were deployed to the scene. Videos showed columns of police cars, some marked “SWAT,” arriving at the campus, normally home to about 200,000 workers.
More workers joined the protest after watching live streams on video platforms Kuaishou and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, the worker told CNN. Many live streams were cut or censored. Online searches for “Foxconn” in Chinese are limited.
Some protesters marched to the main gate of the assembly of the production facility, which is located in a separate area from the workers’ bedrooms, in an attempt to block assembly work, the worker said.
Other protesters took the further step of breaking into the manufacturing complex. They smashed Covid test booths, glass doors and billboards at restaurants in the production area, according to the worker.
After working at the Zhengzhou factory for six years, he said he was now deeply disappointed by Foxconn and planned to quit. With a monthly base salary of 2,300 yuan, he earns between 4,000 yuan to 5,000 yuan per month, including overtime pay, working 10 hours a day and seven days a week during the pandemic.
“Foxconn is a Taiwanese company,” he said. “Not only did it spread Taiwan’s values of democracy and freedom to the mainland, it was assimilated by the Chinese Communist Party and became so cruel and inhumane. I feel very sorry for that.”
Although he was not one of the new recruits, he protested with them in support, adding: “If I remain silent today about the suffering of others, who will speak for me tomorrow?”