One of Apple’s main iPhone suppliers is paying workers to quit and go home as it struggles to operate amid labor unrest and COVID lockdowns.
In a staff announcement, Foxconn said it was offering newly hired employees at its Zhengzhou plant an 8,000 yuan ($1,100) bonus to resign immediately and an additional 2,000 yuan ($300) when they take the bus back to their hometown, reports the South China Morning Post. The bonus is more than a month’s salary for Foxconn workers, according to Bloomberg.
“Some employees are still worried about the coronavirus and hope to quit and go home,” Foxconn wrote in its announcement, saying it “fully understands the concerns” of its workers.
Foxconn, which is officially known as Hon Hai Precision Industrydid not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The announcement came a few hours after reports of violent protests at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory, which has a lot of work 300,000 people. The workers left their dormitories early Wednesday morning, angry over unpaid wages and worried about the spread of COVID. Workers clashed with security personnel, and anti-riot police had to restore order.
Foxconn confirmed that the protests had taken place in a statement on Wednesday and denied that workers who tested positive for COVID were staying in its dormitories.
Zhengzhou officials announced on Wednesday that the city’s urban areas sent to lockdown from Friday to November 29. The city—sometimes called “iPhone City” because of its key position in Apple’s supply chain—reported nearly 1,000 cases on Wednesday.
Foxconn implemented COVID controls in late October, including forcing workers to eat in their dormitories, to quell the growing outbreak. Shortly after Foxconn imposed these controls, videos surfaced on social media of Chinese workers fled the factoryjumping fences and hitching rides to passing cars.
The exodus of workers has pushed Foxconn to turn to the government for help. The workers who fled the Foxconn factory told the South China Morning Post that local village officials called them on behalf of the company, encouraging them to return to work.
Apple warned earlier this month that iPhone production may be lower than expected heading into the holiday season due to disruptions at its factories. State media reported that Foxconn needed as much as possible 100,000 new workers to restore full operations.
China is battling nationwide COVID epidemics as cases rise to their highest point this year, surpassing the previous record Set in April during Shanghai’s punitive two-month lockdown. The country reported 29,754 cases on Wednesday.
The widespread epidemic is a new test of China’s “COVID-zero” policy, which uses mass testing and lockdowns to completely suppress outbreaks. These tough measures have been blamed for dragging down China’s economy, with both retail sales and factory activity falling last month. Nomura economists estimate that the area is responsible for a fifth of China’s GDP now under one form in lockdown.
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