Foxconn has offered to pay new hires 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to leave the world’s largest iPhone assembly factory and leave in order to quell protests that have seen hundreds of people clash with security forces in central China.
The Apple supplier made the offer in a text message from its human resources department to employees on Wednesday after dramatic scenes of violent protests at its campus in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province.
In a message seen by CNN, the company urged employees to “please return to your dormitories” on campus. He also promised to pay them 8,000 yuan if they agreed to quit Foxconn, and another 2,000 yuan after they boarded buses to leave the sprawling site entirely.
The protest began on Tuesday night over the terms of the new recruits’ pay packages and over Covid. concerns about their living conditions. Scenes turned increasingly violent on Wednesday as scores of workers clashed officers of the security forces, including the SWAT team.
Videos circulating on social media showed law enforcement officers dressed in police suits kicking and hitting demonstrators with batons and metal rods. Some workers were seen tearing down fences, throwing bottles and barriers at officers, smashing and overturning police cars.
A witness told CNN that the protest largely ended around 10 p.m. Wednesday, as workers accepted Foxconn’s payment offer and returned to their dormitories, fearing a tougher crackdown by authorities.
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. After Foxconn Chinese state media reported that more than 100,000 people have signed up to fill advertised positions.
Workers were promised a 3,000 yuan bonus after 30 days on the job, with another 3,000 yuan to be paid after just 60 days, according to a document showing the new hires’ pay packages seen by CNN.
However, according to one worker, upon arrival at the factory, new Foxconn recruits were told that they would receive their first bonus only on March 15 and the second payment in May. To receive the first of the bonus payments starting in January 2023.
“The new hires had to work extra days to get the promised bonus, so they felt cheated,” the employee told CNN.
In a statement Thursday, Foxconn said it fully understood the concerns of new hires about “possible changes in subsidy policy” and blamed it on a “technical error during the onboarding process.”
“We apologize for the input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual payment is the same as agreed,” he said.
Foxconn contacted the workers and assured them that wages and bonuses would be paid “in accordance with company policies.”
Apple, where Foxconn manufactures a number of products, told CNN Business that its employees are at the Zhengzhou facility.
“We are reviewing the situation and are working closely with Foxconn to ensure that their employees’ concerns are addressed,” he said.
On Thursday morning, some workers who had agreed to leave had received the first part of their payment, one worker said in a live broadcast that showed them lining up outdoors. undergoing Covid tests while waiting for departing buses. Later in the day, live broadcasts showed long lines of workers boarding buses.
But for some, the problem is far from over. Many were unable to get tickets home after another worker was taken to Zhengzhou train station live on Thursday afternoon. Thousands of workers like him were stuck at the station, he said as he panned his camera to show the huge crowd.
Zhengzhou is set to impose a five-day lockdown in urban areas, including the train station, starting at midnight on Friday, authorities announced earlier.
The protest began Tuesday night outside worker dormitories at the sprawling Foxconn campus, with hundreds marching and chanting “damn Foxconn,” according to social media videos and witness accounts. The videos show workers clashing with security personnel and struggling with tear gas fired by police.
The standoff continued until Wednesday morning. The situation quickly escalated as large numbers of security forces, most of them wearing white hazmat suits and some carrying shields and batons, were dispatched to the scene. The videos typically showed columns of police cars, some with “SWAT” markings, arriving at the campus, home to about 200,000 employees.
A worker told CNN that more workers joined the protest after seeing live streams on video platforms Kuaishou and Douyin, China’s version of TikTok. Many live streams were interrupted or censored. Online searches for Foxconn in Chinese are restricted.
The worker said that some protesters marched to the main gate of the manufacturing complex, which is located in a separate area from the workers’ dormitories, to prevent the assembly work.
Other protesters took the next step to enter the manufacturing complex. According to the worker, they broke the Covid test booths, glass doors and billboards in the restaurants in the production area.
After six years at the Zhengzhou plant, he now says he is deeply disillusioned with Foxconn and plans to quit. With a basic monthly salary of 2,300 yuan, he earns between 4,000 yuan 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 it not spread Taiwan’s values of democracy and freedom to the mainland, but it was appropriated by the Chinese Communist Party and became so cruel and inhumane. I am very upset about this.”
Although he was not one of the new recruits, he protested in support of them: “If today I am silent about the problems of others, who will talk about me tomorrow?”