Foxconn has promised to pay newly hired workers 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to quit and leave a giant iPhone assembly plant, in a bid to end protests that have seen hundreds clash with security forces in central China.
The Apple retailer made the offer on Wednesday after violent protests at its campus in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, in a message sent by the labor department to workers.
In the message, seen by CNN, the company urged employees to “please return to your bedrooms” on campus. It also promised to pay them 8,000 yuan if they agreed to leave Foxconn, and another 2,000 yuan after they boarded the buses and left the flat area completely.
Protests broke out on Tuesday night over the terms of new recruitment and Covid-related pay packages concern about their living conditions. Demonstrations turned violent on Wednesday as workers clashed in large numbers of security forces, including SWAT team officers.
Videos circulating on social media showed teams of law enforcement officers in hazmat suits kicking and hitting protesters with batons and iron rods. Some workers were seen tearing down fences, throwing bottles and barriers at police and smashing and overturning police vehicles.
The protest began at 10pm on Wednesday as workers returned to their dormitories, having received Foxconn’s payment and fearing a harsh crackdown by authorities, a witness told CNN.
The Zhengzhou plant was hit by the Covid outbreak in October, forcing it to be locked down and leading to a massive exodus of workers fleeing the outbreak. Foxconn later has launched a massive recruitment drive, where more than 100,000 people have signed up to fill advertised positions, Chinese state media reported.
According to a document detailing the new hire’s salary package seen by CNN, 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 the worker, after arriving at the plant, the new employees were told by Foxconn that they will only receive the first bonus on March 15, and the second one in May – which means they have to work on the New Year holiday. beginning in January 2023, to receive the first of the bonus payments.
“The new hires had to work extra days to get the bonus they were promised, so they feel cheated,” the worker told CNN.
In a statement Thursday, Foxconn said it fully understands the concerns of new hires about “possible changes to the sponsorship policy,” which they blamed on a “technical error (that) occurred during the onboarding process.”
“We apologize for the error that occurred in the computer system and confirm that the actual payment is the same as what was agreed,” it said.
Foxconn was communicating with employees and assuring them that wages and bonuses would be paid “in accordance with company policies,” he said.
Apple, where Foxconn makes a range of products, told CNN Business that its employees were on the ground at the Zhengzhou facility.
“We are monitoring the situation and working closely with Foxconn to ensure that their employees’ concerns are addressed,” the statement said.
By Thursday morning, some workers who had agreed to walk had received the first part of the payment, the worker said on a live stream, which showed workers queuing outside. to take a Covid test while waiting for moving buses. In the afternoon, livestreams showed long lines of workers boarding buses.
But for others, the problem is far from over. After being driven to Zhengzhou railway station, many were unable to get a ticket home, one worker said on a live stream on Thursday afternoon. Like him, thousands of workers were trapped in the station, he said, as he turned his camera to show the large crowd.
Zhengzhou is expected to impose a five-day lockdown in urban districts, including the railway station, starting at midnight on Friday, authorities announced earlier.
Protests began outside employee dormitories on Foxconn’s crowded campus Tuesday night, with hundreds marching and chanting “Down with Foxconn,” according to social media videos and witness accounts. Videos showed workers clashing with security guards and fighting back with tear gas fired by police.
The competition continued on Wednesday morning. The situation quickly escalated when a large number of security forces, many clad in white hazmat suits and some carrying shields and toons, were deployed to the scene. Videos showed columns of police vehicles, some marked “SWAT,” arriving on campus, housing about 200,000 personnel.
Many workers joined the protest after seeing videos on video platforms Kuaishou and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, an employee told CNN. Many live streams were cut or checked. Internet searches for “Foxconn” in Chinese are restricted.
Some protesters marched to the main entrance 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.
Some protesters took another step to break into the factory. They broke the Covid testing booths, glass doors and advertising boards in the restaurants at the production site, according to the employee.
After working in the Zhengzhou business for six years, he said that he is now very disappointed with Foxconn and plans to quit. With a basic monthly salary of 2,300 yuan, he earned between 4,000 yuan and 5,000 yuan per month, including overtime pay, working 10 hours a day and seven days a week during the epidemic.
“Foxconn is a Taiwanese company,” he said. “Not only did it spread Taiwan’s values of democracy and freedom to the mainland, it was adopted by the Chinese Communist Party and became cruel and brutal. I feel very bad about it.”
Although he was not one of these new disciples, he argued with them in support, and added: “If today I am silent about the sufferings of others, who will speak about me tomorrow?”