Apple supplier Foxconn apologises after unrest at Chinese campus

Taiwanese tech giant says ‘technical error’ to blame for pay dispute that saw workers clash with police.

Foxconn sign on the outisde of a building.
Applier supplier Foxconn has apologised to workers after its iPhone manufacturing complex in central China was rocked by demonstrations over pay and conditions [File: Nicky Loh/Reuters]

Apple supplier Foxconn has apologised to workers after its enormous iPhone manufacturing complex in central China was rocked by violent protests over pay and conditions.

The Taiwanese technology giant on Thursday said it had identified a “technical error” in its payment system and that there had been no change to agreed rates of pay after workers staged protests at its campus in the city of Zhengzhou.

“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,” the company said in a statement.

Video posted online on Wednesday showed people pulling down barriers, smashing surveillance cameras and windows and clashing with police, with a number of workers left bloodied in the confrontations.

Some workers in the footage said they had been informed that Foxconn planned to delay bonus payments, while others complained they had been forced to share dormitories with colleagues who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Foxconn’s apology came as authorities in Zhengzhou ordered an effective lockdown for more than half of the city’s 10.3 million people and as COVID-19 cases nationwide surged to a record high.

Starting from midnight on Friday, residents in the city centre will not be allowed to leave their district without a negative COVID test result and the permission of authorities. Residents are also being advised to stay at home “unless necessary.”

China’s nationwide tally on Thursday rose to a record 31,454 infections, as authorities battle a COVID resurgence in metropolises including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Chongqing.

Despite Beijing’s calls for more focused measures to control infections, authorities across the country have scrambled to reimpose restrictions such as lockdowns and mass testing to stop the spread of the virus.

The tightening restrictions have dampened hopes for an exit from Beijing’s harsh “zero-COVID” strategy, which seeks to stamp out the virus wherever it pops up, and spells more gloom for China’s sputtering economic recovery.

The world’s second-largest economy is expected to struggle to reach 3 percent growth in 2022, which would be among its weakest performances in decades. Gross domestic product (GDP) officially expanded 3.9 percent between July and September, after growing just 0.4 percent the previous quarter.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies