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Workplace dispute roils Foxconn supplier in China

The contract manufacturer, which makes iPhones and other consumer electronics, acknowledges a "workplace issue" at a factory run by a supplier that reportedly makes iPhone connectors and other goods.

Foxconn operates factories in several Chinese cities, including this one in Shenzhen.
Jay Greene/CNET

Foxconn Technology Group, the Taiwanese contract manufacturer that assembles products for Apple and several other tech giants, acknowledged a "workplace issue" at a factory in Fengcheng, China, run by one of its suppliers, Jiangxi Xin Hai Yang Precision Components Co.

A Hong Kong watchdog group -- Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour, or SACOM -- called it a strike of more than 1,000 workers who took to the streets to demand better pay and dignity. While Foxconn did not disclose the products or components made at the factory, a Sacom representative said she believes workers there produce iPhone connectors as well as components for other brands.

Sacom said the dispute began Thursday and continued into Friday, when workers blocked a main road near the factory. The group said that "riot police" intervened, using a water cannon as well as physical violence to suppress workers.

"Regardless the media campaign of Apple and Foxconn which trumpets the decent working conditions in the factories, sweatshop-like conditions remain," Sacom said in a statement.

The group condemned the crackdown and called on both Foxconn and Apple to meet with workers to discuss their grievances.

Foxconn acknowledged the "workplace issue" in Fengcheng but noted that the dispute was not at a factory that it runs.

"This is not a Foxconn company, but in keeping with our desire to see our suppliers address their workplace issues in a responsible manner, we have asked the management of this firm to work with its employees and local government representatives to resolve their concerns and ensure that they meet the high standards of workplace and living conditions that we expect from any firm associated with our company," the company said in a statement.

Apple didn't immediately reply to a request for comment Sunday afternoon.

Foxconn employs more than 1 million workers in China, and has faced harsh criticism for paying scant wages and treating workers poorly. In a few instances, workers have protested, briefly shutting down a factory last fall. A handful have also taken their own lives at the factories.

Those troubles, in turn, have reflected poorly on Apple, which is generating huge profits on devices, such as the iPhone and iPad, most of which are made by Foxconn in China.