Foxconn has offered to pay 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to newly hired workers to leave the world’s largest iPhone assembly plant and walk out, in an effort to quell protests that saw hundreds clash with security forces at a compound in central China.
The Apple supplier made the offer in a text message to workers from its human resources department on Wednesday, following dramatic scenes of violent protests at its campus in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province.
In a message seen by CNN, the company urged workers to “please return to your dormitories” on campus. It promised to pay them 8,000 yuan if they agreed to leave Foxconn, and 2,000 yuan after they boarded buses to leave the sprawling site altogether.
A row erupted on Tuesday night over the terms of pay packages of new recruits and Covid. Concerns about their living conditions. The scenes turned increasingly violent on Wednesday as workers clashed with large crowds of security forces including SWAT team officers.
Videos circulating on social media showed teams of law enforcement officers kicking and beating protesters dressed in hazmat suits with batons and metal bars. Some workers were seen tearing down fences, throwing bottles and blocks at officers and smashing and overturning police vehicles.
The workers returned to their dormitories around 10 p.m. Wednesday after receiving Foxconn’s payment offer, fearing a heavy crackdown by authorities, a witness told CNN.
In October the Zhengzhou plant was hit by a Covid outbreak, which forced a lockdown and led to a mass exodus of workers from the outbreak. After Foxconn It has launched a massive recruitment drive, with more than 100,000 people registering to fill advertised positions, according to Chinese state media.
Workers will be paid a 3,000 yuan bonus after 30 days on the job, and another 3,000 yuan after a total of 60 days, according to a document setting out the new hires’ salary package seen by CNN.
However, according to one worker, after arriving at the plant, Foxconn said the new hires would receive their first bonus on March 15 and the second installment only in May — meaning they would have to work through the Lunar New Year holiday, to receive the first of the bonus payments, beginning in January 2023.
“The new hires had to work extra days to get the bonuses they were promised, so they felt cheated,” the worker told CNN.
In a statement Thursday, Foxconn said it fully understood the new hires’ concerns about “potential changes in subsidy policy,” which it blamed on “a technical error (that) occurred during the onboarding process.”
“We apologize for the input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual pay will be as agreed,” it said.
Foxconn communicated with employees and assured them that salaries and bonuses would be paid “in accordance with company policies.”
Apple, which manufactures a range of Foxconn products, told CNN Business that its employees are on the ground at the Zhengzhou facility.
“We are reviewing the situation and working closely with Foxconn to ensure their employees’ concerns are addressed,” it said in a statement.
On Thursday morning, some of the workers who agreed to walk out had received the first part of their wages, a worker said in a livestream that showed workers lining up outside. to carry out covid tests while they wait for departing buses. Later in the day, livestreams showed long lines of workers boarding buses.
But for some people the problems are not solved. After being taken to Zhengzhou train station, many did not get tickets home, another worker said in a live broadcast on Thursday afternoon. Like him, thousands of workers were trapped in the station, he said as he turned his camera to show the huge crowd.
Authorities had earlier announced that Zhengzhou was to impose a five-day lockdown in its urban districts, including the railway station, from midnight on Friday.
Protests began outside workers’ dormitories at the sprawling Foxconn complex on Tuesday night, with hundreds of people marching and chanting slogans including “Down with Foxconn,” according to social media videos and witness accounts. Videos show workers clashing with security guards and fighting back as police fire tear gas.
The protest continued till Wednesday morning. The situation quickly escalated when a large number of security forces, most in white hazmat suits and some carrying shields and batons, were dispatched to the scene. Videos showed columns of police vehicles, some marked “SWAT,” arriving at the campus, which normally houses about 200,000 workers.
The worker told CNN that more workers joined the protest after watching livestreams on the Chinese version of TikTok, Guisho and Douin video sites. Many live broadcasts were cut or censored. Online searches for “Foxconn” in Chinese are restricted.
The worker said that some of the protesters marched to the main gate of the manufacturing facility complex, which is located in a separate area from the workers’ hostel, in an attempt to disrupt the assembly work.
Other protesters took further steps to enter the manufacturing premises. According to the worker, they smashed Covid checkpoints, glass doors and billboards at restaurants in the manufacturing area.
Having worked at the Zhengzhou plant for six years, he said he is now very disappointed with Foxconn and plans to leave. With a basic monthly salary of 2,300 yuan, he has been earning between 4,000 yuan and 5,000 yuan a month, including overtime pay, for working 10 hours a day and 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 assimilated by the Chinese Communist Party and became very cruel and inhumane. I feel very sad about that.
Although he was not one of the new recruits, he protested in support of them: “If today I remain silent about the suffering of others, who will speak for me tomorrow?”