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Foxconn apologizes for wage dispute at China factory

By JOE McDONALD, AP Business Writers

BEIJING (AP) — The company that assembles Apple Inc.’s iPhones apologized Thursday for what it said was a technical error that sparked protests from employees over offered wage payments to lure them into a factory under antivirus restrictions.

Protests erupted in the central city of Zhengzhou on Tuesday after employees complained that Foxconn Technology Group required them to do extra work in order to receive the higher salary promised by recruiters. Foxconn is trying to rebuild its workforce after thousands of employees walked out last month over complaints about unsafe conditions.

Videos on social media showed policemen in white protective suits kicking and punching protesting workers.

Foxconn, the largest contract assembler of smartphones and other electronics for Apple and other global brands, blamed the dispute on a “technical error” in the process of recruiting new employees. He promised that they would receive the salaries they were promised.

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“We apologize for an input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual payment is the same as agreed and the official hiring posters,” a company statement said. He promised to “do everything possible to actively resolve the reasonable concerns and demands of employees.”

The dispute comes as the ruling Communist Party tries to contain a surge in coronavirus cases without shutting down factories, as it did in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Its tactics include “closed loop management” or having employees live in their workplaces without outside contact.

Authorities last month vowed to reduce economic disruption by reducing quarantine times and making other changes to China’s “zero COVID” strategy, which aims to isolate all cases. Despite that, the rise in infections has led authorities to cut off access to neighborhoods and factories and close office buildings, shops and restaurants in parts of many cities.

On Thursday, people in eight districts of Zhengzhou with a total of 6.6 million residents were told to stay at home for five days. Daily mass testing was ordered in what the city government called a “war of annihilation” against the virus.

Apple previously warned that iPhone 14 deliveries would be delayed after employees left the Zhengzhou factory and access to the industrial zone around the facility was suspended following the outbreaks.

To attract new workers, Foxconn offered 25,000 yuan ($3,500) for two months of work, according to the employees, or nearly 50% more than what news reports say their highest wages are typically.

Employees complained that after they arrived, they were told they had to work two more months at a lower salary in order to receive a higher salary, according to an employee, Li Sanshan.

Foxconn has offered up to 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to new employees who decide to leave, financial news outlet Cailianshe reported, citing unnamed recruiting agents.

Foxconn’s statement on Thursday said departing employees will receive unspecified “care allowances,” but gave no details. He promised “comprehensive support” for those who remain.

The protests in Zhengzhou come amid public frustration over restrictions that have confined millions of people to their homes. Videos on social media show residents in some areas tearing down barricades set up to enforce neighborhood lockdowns.

Foxconn, based in New Taipei City, Taiwan, earlier denied what it said were online comments that employees with the virus were living in factory dormitories.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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