World’s largest iPhone plant rushes to tame fear in bid to keep production running under China’s zero-Covid policy

World’s largest iPhone plant rushes to tame fear in bid to keep production running under China’s zero-Covid policy

Boxed meals prepared by staff in hazmat suits, herbal medicine pamphlets, mandatory covid-19 testing, and strictly enforced social distancing – these are just glimpses of daily life inside the world’s largest iPhone factory. in the world, according to Chinese state media reports, as the plant is rushed. to build confidence after an exodus of workers raised questions about the conditions at the site.

On Chinese social media platforms, earlier videos of workers complaining about hygiene and food conditions at the factory, run by Foxconn Technology Group in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou have been replaced by images published by official media, showing happy workers operating under efficient pandemic control measures.

“For breakfast, we had milk and bread, and if I want more, I can get an extra portion,” Wen Jialong, a Foxconn worker, told Henan Television, praising the three free meals the company provides each day.

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Behind the camera, however, some workers said they remain concerned about the risk of infections at the complex, where neither Foxconn nor local authorities have disclosed the number of registered Covid-19 cases.

One worker, who requested anonymity, told the Post that some of his colleagues have chosen to sleep on factory floors, along assembly lines, rather than return to dormitories, for fear of catching the coronavirus. neighbors who tested positive.

Some even bought tents to sleep in, the worker said.

One worker, who said he left the complex last weekend by climbing over a temporary iron fence, said he fled because two of his roommates were confirmed positive but received no medical treatment.

“I was afraid of getting infected. I was afraid of dying. So I ran,” he said, adding that he walked more than 30 kilometers on the highway before a truck picked him up.

Foxconn did not respond to a request for comment.

Workers who have left the Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou gather on the road. Photo: Weibo alt=Workers who have left the Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou gather on the road. Photo: Weibo>

The anxiety experienced by many of Foxconn’s nearly 300,000 workers, most in their 20s and 30s, mirrors the Chinese government’s official narrative, which emphasizes the health threats of the coronavirus to justify draconian lockdowns.

However, after an unknown number of Foxconn workers fled the factory last weekend, the local health authority changed course and started telling people that the health impact of contracting the coronavirus is limited.

Still, the Zhengzhou government has gone to great lengths to contain the virus, implementing measures including disinfecting all public places, even though China’s national health authority has deemed such actions unnecessary. The city has also reminded residents to disinfect the surface of package deliveries.

On Wednesday, the 400-square-meter (4,300-square-foot) Zhengzhou airport economic zone, where Foxconn is located, entered a seven-day de facto lockdown, making it almost impossible for anyone to enter or leave without prior approval. .

A screenshot from a video clip shows Foxconn workers walking back to their hometown on the highway. Photo: Weibo alt=A screenshot from a video clip shows Foxconn workers walking back to their hometown on the highway. Photo: Weibo>

One worker, who resigned this week but was unable to leave the complex due to the lockdown, told the Post by phone that the situation on campus is less rosy than state media shows.

“If you don’t show up for work, you’re not entitled to food or testing,” the worker said. Meanwhile, trash in the dorm area remained uncleaned as food scraps and plastic bags accumulated around the bins, the worker said.

The worker said resignation is strongly discouraged at this time because the factory is ramping up. iPhone production for the Christmas season AppleThe main markets of USA and Europe.

Foxconn, one of the largest exporters, taxpayers and employers in Zhengzhou, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry – has received disease control support from the local government to keep production going. The company meanwhile has increased your daily cash bonus for workers at 400 yuan (US$55) from 100 yuan the week before.

Customers queue at Apple’s Fifth Avenue store for the launch of the iPhone 14 range in Manhattan, New York. Photo: Reuters alt=Customers line up at Apple’s Fifth Avenue store for the launch of the iPhone 14 range in Manhattan, New York. Photo: Reuters>

Despite Foxconn’s efforts to maintain output, Reuters on Monday quoted an unnamed source with knowledge of the matter as saying iPhone output at the plant could be cut by as much as 30 percent this month.

Kuo Ming-chi, an analyst at TF International Securities who follows Apple’s supply chain, estimated that at least 10 percent of global iPhone production capacity is affected, though he expected Foxconn’s output to gradually improve by a few. few weeks and kept his previous forecast. of iPhone shipments for this quarter.

A report by local newspaper Henan Daily quoted an unidentified person in charge of the Foxconn unit responsible for assembling the iPhone 14 series as saying that the plant needs workers and that management has asked for support from the company’s other facilities. .

Health authorities in Henan province reported 22 confirmed cases of covid-19 on Thursday, 21 in its capital Zhengzhou. Among 165 asymptomatic cases found, 136 were from the city.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for over a century. For more SCMP stories, explore the SCMP application or visit the SCMP’s Facebook Y Twitter pages Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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