A day after violent protests at its factory, Apple supplier Foxconn on Thursday apologised for technical error in the payment system, assuring the workers that actual pay would be same as agreed.
“We apologise for an input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual pay is the same as agreed [on] the official recruitment posters,” a Foxconn statement said.
It is complete contrast to the stance taken just a day earlier when it said the company had fulfilled the payment contracts.
“Our team has been looking into the matter and discovered a technical error occurred during the onboarding process,” the statement read, referring to the hiring of new workers.
Last month, rising Covid cases saw the factory locked down, prompting some workers to break out and go home. The company then recruited new workers with the promise of generous bonuses.
But one worker said these contracts were changed so they “could not get the subsidy promised”, adding that they were quarantined without food.
Men smashed surveillance cameras and clashed with security personnel as hundreds of workers protested at the world’s biggest iPhone plant in Zhengzhou city on Wednesday, in rare scenes of open dissent in China sparked by claims of overdue pay and frustration over severe Covid-19 restrictions.
Workers said on videos circulated on social media that they had been informed that Foxconn intended to delay bonus payments. Some workers also complained they were forced to share dormitories with colleagues who had tested positive for Covid.
The latest unrest has exposed communication problems and a mistrust of Foxconn management among some staff, with some workers accusing the company of not acting effectively to curb the spread of Covid and then misleading them over wages.
The largest protests had died down by Thursday and the company was communicating with employees engaged in smaller protests, a Foxconn source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The person said the company had reached “initial agreements” with employees to resolve the dispute and production at the plant continued on Thursday.
Zhengzhou announced on Wednesday that it would conduct mass coronavirus testing as China reported a record 31,444 new daily cases of locally acquired Covid.
Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant operates like a small city. Home to over 200,000 workers, the compound has dormitories, restaurants, basketball courts and a football pitch across its sprawling roughly 1.4 million square metre facility.
The factory, which makes Apple Inc devices including the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, accounts for 70 per cent of iPhone shipments globally.
Foxconn workers said the Apple supplier used an apartment complex near the factory to house infected workers and their close contacts when the outbreak first emerged in October.
Apple said it had staff at the factory and was working closely with Foxconn to ensure their employees’ concerns are addressed.
Several shareholder activists said the protests showed the risks Apple faces through its reliance on manufacturing in China.
It was reported earlier that the iPhone output at the Zhengzhou factory could slump by as much as 30 percent in November following worker unrest last month, and that Foxconn aimed to resume full production there by the second half of the month.
Apple has warned it expects lower shipments of premium iPhone 14 models than previously anticipated.
The factory has been rocked by worker unrest and discontent since October. Some staff fled the campus rather than submit to Foxconn’s so-called closed-loop system, which requires workers to live and work on site.