Tech company Foxconn apologises after violent protests at iPhone factory in China

Electronics manufacturer blames 'technical error' after employees object to change in payment agreement

Foxconn's headquarters in Shanghai. Foxconn has been under Covid-19 restrictions for more than a month amid a sharp rise in cases. Reuters
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Taiwanese technology company Foxconn apologised on Thursday for a “technical error” in its payment systems after violent protests erupted over salaries and conditions at its vast iPhone factory in central China.

Hundreds of workers marched in Zhengzhou — called “iPhone City” as the world's biggest producer of the smartphone — with some clashing with riot police and personnel in hazmat suits.

A worker told AFP the confrontations broke out after employees who signed an agreement with the factory to work at least 30 days in return for a one-time payment of 3,000 yuan ($420) suddenly saw the figure slashed to only 30 yuan.

“Our team has been looking into the matter and discovered a technical error occurred during the onboarding process,” Foxconn said without going into detail.

“We apologise for an input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual pay is the same as agreed.

“At present, the park is continuing to actively communicate with the employees affected by the wrong information, explaining that the salaries and bonuses of all employees are paid in accordance with company policies.”

Residents in Zhengzhou's city centre were unable to leave the area unless they have a negative Covid-19 test and permission from authorities, and were advised not to leave their homes “unless necessary”, the local government said, after the protests broke out.

The restrictions, which will last five days from midnight Friday, affect more than six million people — about half the city's population.

The government notice, issued late Wednesday, also requires the residents of eight districts to take a nucleic acid test every day during the five-day period.

Foxconn has itself been under Covid restrictions for more than a month amid a sharp rise cases in its worker dormitories.

Footage emerged last month of panicking workers fleeing the site on foot amid allegations of poor conditions at the factory.

The Zhengzhou government on Wednesday said the city's outbreak was “still severe and complicated”.

The country's daily tally of Covid-19 cases hit a record high on Thursday, at 31,454 domestic cases — relatively small when compared with China's 1.4 billion population but exceeding the peak recorded in mid-April when Shanghai was under lockdown.

Zhengzhou on Thursday recorded 675 new Covid infections — the vast majority of which were asymptomatic.

Updated: November 24, 2022, 7:23 AM