Hundreds of employees at a Foxconn factory that manufactures iPhones in Zhengzhou, China, clashed with security personnel today (Nov. 23), according to footage circulating on social media. The protests were reportedly triggered by a decision to delay bonus payments, as well as fears of Covid outbreaks.
Footage shared by Reuters shows demonstrators clashing with guards dressed in hazmat suits, chanting “give us our pay.” Some workers are seen taking down quarantine barriers and smashing surveillance cameras outside the plant.
Since October Foxconn, which produces most of the world’s iPhones, has required employees to work under a “closed-loop” system, meaning they have to live at the factory. Although this system is intended to prevent the spread of Covid, employees have reportedly expressed fears that infected workers are being allowed to stay on campus to meet Foxconn’s production quotas.
In a statement, Foxconn confirmed the violence was related to concerns over wages, but denied reports of Covid-positive workers.
The protests may be an inflection point for China’s “zero-Covid” policy, which has rattled supply chains and taken a toll on the country’s economy. Even though the country’s ruling Communist party eased pandemic restrictions earlier this month, much of the country remains locked down. China reported more than 28,000 new Covid cases this week, close to an all-time peak that occurred in April. The country’s GDP growth is expected to slow to 3.2 percent this year, down from 8.1 percent in 2021, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today the IMF urged China to “recalibrate” its Covid strategy, including boosting vaccination rates and easing monetary policies targeting the property sector.