Worker unrest at the only factory that makes the new iPhone 14 Pro will make it harder to get Apple’s latest premier smart phone in time for the holidays.
The stressed-out workers at the world’s largest Apple iPhone factory, Foxconn Technology Group’s plant in Zhengzhou, in central China, have protested and thousands have fled over strict Covid-19 restrictions — including isolation of workers suspected of being infected — disrupting production as the holiday season kicks off.
The result is that more than 30% of the factory’s November production could be affected, Reuters reported, citing an internal source. That’s an increased estimate from the “up to” 30% cited when the issues first erupted late last month.
The 15 million-square-foot factory is the only one that makes premium iPhone models, including the iPhone14 Pro. Reuters said it is unlikely the plant will resume full production by the end of this month.
Apple told The Associated Press it had people on the ground at the plant. “We are reviewing the situation and working closely with Foxconn to ensure their employees’ concerns are addressed,” the Cupertino, California, company said.
Apple warned about delayed iPhone 14 deliveries earlier this month, citing “reduced capacity” at the plant.
Apple shares slipped 2% to $147.92 in Friday’s abbreviated trading session on Wall Street.
The chaos at the Foxconn factory led the Taiwanese company on Wednesday to offer new recruits $1,400 to quit and leave the plant, CNN reported, splitting the payment to include money to quit and extra cash if they would board buses and leave the sprawling plant.
More than 20,000 workers, took the money and left, Reuters reported Friday, noting that videos on social media showed crowds and long lines of people carrying luggage and waiting for buses. The factory employed about 200,000 before the unrest,
The offer to pay them for leaving followed protests Tuesday night and Wednesday over the pay packages offered the thousands of new workers, along with COVID-related concerns about their living conditions, according to CNN. Most of the workers live in dormitories at the plant. Videos posted on social media showed the demonstrators clashing with security forces in hazmat suits kicking and hitting protesters with batons and metal rods. Some workers were seen tearing down fences, throwing bottles and barriers at officers and smashing and overturning police vehicles.
A Foxconn source downplayed the problems to Reuters, claiming that because the new workers had not been trained or begun to work, their exits wouldn’t impact production. “The incident has a big impact on our public image but little on our (current) capacity. Our current capacity is not affected,” the source said.
The unrest comes as the ruling Communist Party tries to contain a surge in coronavirus cases without shutting down factories and amid wider protests about the restrictions across China amid President Xi Xingping’s “Zero COVID” policy.