Foxconn faces more industrial action

Apple’s assembler confronted again by pressured workers

Tags: Apple IncorporatedChinaFoxconn Technology Group
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Foxconn faces more industrial action Workers became frustrated with trying to prevent scratching on the casings of the iPhone 5. (Getty Images)
By  Stephen McBride Published  October 8, 2012

Embattled Apple iPhone assembler Foxconn Technology was forced to halt production for the second time in two weeks as factory employees staged a mass protest against the high-pressure conditions of meeting worldwide demand for the handsets, reports Bloomberg.

Foxconn, employer of 1m workers, has been plagued over the past three years by strikes, riots and suicides, even as chairman Terry Gou raised pay and agreed to external inspections. Some workers have been known to work up to 12 hours in a day and allegations of abuse from onsite security guards have also surfaced.

One site in Zhengzhou, China, ground to a halt for two shifts on Friday after workers became frustrated with trying to prevent scratching on the casings of the iPhone 5, according to two people familiar with the matter. A dispute occurred between the production and quality teams at the factory, the company said. Some 3,000 to 4,000 people who walked off the job at the plant, have since returned to work, according to advocacy group China Labor Watch.

Last month, a brawl involving 2,000 workers at a Foxconn plant in northern China's Taiyuan also halted production. The fracas left more than 40 hospitalised and brought security teams wearing riot helmets and wielding plastic shields into the Taiyuan plant, which employs 79,000 people.

"What happens in Foxconn's factories shows that it needs to improve working conditions and its handling of worker relations," said Wang Xiangqian, former professor at the China Institute of Industrial Relations who helps the government co-ordinate labour relations.

"Foxconn may have put more focus on efficiency and discipline, which is not wrong, and may have overlooked employees' feelings as human beings."

"These strikes might send a signal to Apple that it has to set aside a bigger portion of its profit to satisfying these assembly plant workers," said Daniel Chang, an analyst with Macquarie Securities Ltd. in Taipei.

"Apple needs Foxconn as it's the only company out there that has the capacity and ability to amass such a big number of workers to do assembling work. For Apple, Foxconn is pretty much irreplaceable."

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