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More workers leave Foxconn, weighing down giant China iPhone plant

Foxconn’s flagship iPhone plant in China is set to see its November shipments further reduced by the latest bout of worker unrest this week, as thousands of employees left the site.

On Wednesday, workers – most of whom were new recruits hired in recent weeks – clashed with security personnel at the Zhengzhou plant in central China. Many claimed they were misled over compensation benefits at the factory, and others complained about sharing dormitories with colleagues who had tested positive for COVID-19.

The company had earlier said that as much as 30 percent of the factory’s production could be affected by the worker unrest which started in late October. Experts now say that the latest string of protests could significantly increase that earlier estimate.

The only factory site where Foxconn makes premium iPhone models, including the iPhone 14 Pro, is unlikely to resume full production by the end of this month.

The world’s largest Apple iPhone manufacturing site has been grappling with strict COVID restrictions that have fuelled discontent among workers and disrupted production ahead of Christmas and January’s Lunar New Year holiday, as many workers were either put into isolation or fled the plant.

It has fuelled concerns over Apple’s ability to deliver products for the busy holiday period.

Before the recent turbulent woes, the plant employed more than 200,000 staff. It has dormitories, restaurants, basketball courts and a football pitch across its sprawling roughly 1.4 million-square-metre facility.

Foxconn apologised for a pay-related “technical error” when hiring on Thursday, and later offered USD 1,400 to protesting new recruits who agreed to resign and leave.

A large majority of new hires who were not yet working on production lines, took the money and left. Videos posted on Chinese social media on Friday showed crowds and long lines of luggage-laden workers queuing for buses.

Some speculated that because the people leaving had not yet been trained or begun to work, their departures would not cause further harm to current production. The incident might see lasting impact on public image, but affect production capacity to a lesser extent.

Foxconn shares closed down 0.5 percent, lagging the broader market, which ended flat.


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