Foxconn denies report of strike at Zhengzhou iPhone factory

Foxconn says that 3,000 to 4,000 workers building iPhones did not stop work yesterday.

Construction near Foxconn's factory in Zhengzhou, China.
Construction near Foxconn's factory in Zhengzhou, China. Jay Greene/CNET

Last updated: 7:50 a.m. PT

Foxconn is denying that an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 workers at one of its factories in Zhengzhou, China,  went on strike yesterday , as reported by China Labor Watch, a nonprofit advocacy group based in New York. In an e-mail statement sent to CNET, a Foxconn Technology Group representative wrote:

We can confirm that there were two disputes between a small group of production line workers and Quality Assurance (QA) personnel at our manufacturing facility in Zhengzhou, China on October 1 and 2 but these were isolated incidents and were immediately addressed and measures taken, including providing additional staff for the lines in question, to address the issues raised by both production workers and QA personnel. This is consistent with our efforts to work with our employees to continuously enhance any aspects of our production that can improve the workplace and manufacturing practices.

Any reports that there has been an employee strike are inaccurate, there has been no workplace stoppage in that facility or any other Foxconn facility and production has continued on schedule.

Employees who have worked during the China national holidays at all our operations in China have done so voluntarily and this is supported by written documentation and any reports to the contrary are inaccurate. Employees who have worked during these holidays have been paid in accordance with China Labor Law, which is three times their normal hourly compensation.

Foxconn takes our responsibility to our employees very seriously and we work hard to give our 1.2 million employees in China a safe and positive working environment and compensation and benefits that are competitive with all of our industry peers in that location. We do this because it is our policy, but we also do this because we want to continue to be the employer-of-choice in our industry.

The statement is contrary to a news release from China Labor Watch, which stated that Foxconn raised overly strict demands on product quality workers without providing training for the corresponding skills, resulting in a "widespread work stoppage":

China Labor Watch (CLW) announced that at 1:00PM on October 5 (Beijing time), a strike occurred at Foxconn's Zhengzhou factory that, according to workers, involved three to four thousand production workers. In addition to demanding that workers work during the holiday, Foxconn raised overly strict demands on product quality without providing worker training for the corresponding skills. This led to workers turning out products that did not meet standards and ultimately put a tremendous amount of pressure on workers. Additionally, quality control inspectors fell into conflicts with workers and were beat up multiple times by workers. Factory management turned a deaf ear to complaints about these conflicts and took no corrective measures. The result of both of these circumstances was a widespread work stoppage on the factory floor among workers and inspectors.

The majority of workers who participated in this strike were workers from the OQC (onsite quality control) line. According to workers, multiple iPhone 5 production lines from various factory buildings were in a state of paralysis for the entire day. It was reported that factory management and Apple, despite design defects, raised strict quality demands on workers, including indentations standards of 0.02mm and demands related to scratches on frames and back covers. With such demands, employees could not even turn out iPhones that met the standard. This led to a tremendous amount of pressure on workers. On top of this, they were not permitted to have a vacation during the holiday. This combination of factors led to the strike.

China Labor Watch subsequently updated its statement to include Foxconn's denial and more details on the alleged strike:

From October 1st to October 8th, it is the national Holiday in China. Foxcom required workers in the ZhengZhou Factory to work during this time to meet the production demand of iPhone 5. On October 5th, workers from the OQC (onsite quality control) line went to the factory and then left due to the conflicts. Foxconn denied that these workers [went on] strike. However, according to the workers, they went on strike instead of not volunteering to work overtime. October 5th is a holiday, the workers are paid 3 times their normal pay. These workers went back to work on Saturday.

Reuters referenced a Xinhua news agency report, quoting an unnamed government official in Zengzhou, that an estimated 100 quality control inspectors refused to work for a short period after one of them was beaten by workers upset with the inspection demands. The government representative also reportedly said that Apple issued instructions to Foxconn to "strengthen quality inspections for the iPhone 5" following complaints from customers about "aesthetic flaws."  

Apple has not commented on this incident.

Foxconn manufactures products for Apple as well as other technology companies including Dell and Hewlett-Packard. The reported incident is the latest worker-related action to affect production at one of its facilities. Last month a riot involving as many as 2,000 people broke out after an alleged altercation between a guard and a worker. The plant was shut down and reopened a day later.

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