Workers walk out of iPhone factory, highlighting virus woes

Oct 30, 2022, 5:58 PM | Updated: Oct 31, 2022, 6:50 am
A man gets his routine COVID-19 throat swab at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Sunday, Oct. ...

A man gets his routine COVID-19 throat swab at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

              A woman wearing a face mask rides past autumn-colored ginkgo trees along a street in Beijing, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
            
              A man gets his routine COVID-19 throat swab at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
            
              A food delivery rider wearing a face mask rides past communist symbol of stars on display outside a restaurant in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
            
              A man gets his routine COVID-19 throat swabs at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
            
              Commuters wearing face masks walk through the plastic curtain as they exit a subway station in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
            
              Motorists wearing face masks ride their electric-powered scooters on a street during the morning rush hour in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
            
              A man wearing a face mask holds his testing tube as masked residents line up for their routine COVID-19 throat swabs at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
            
              In this photo taken from video footage and released by Hangpai Xingyang, people with suitcases and bags are seen leaving from a Foxconn compound in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan Province on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. Workers in a Foxconn facility in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou appear to have left the facility to avoid COVID-19 curbs, with many traveling by foot days after an unknown number of factory workers were quarantined in the facility following a virus outbreak. (Hangpai Xingyang via AP)
            
              In this photo taken from video footage and released by Hangpai Xingyang, people with suitcases and bags are seen leaving from a Foxconn compound in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan Province on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. Workers in a Foxconn facility in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou appear to have left the facility to avoid COVID-19 curbs, with many traveling by foot days after an unknown number of factory workers were quarantined in the facility following a virus outbreak. (Hangpai Xingyang via AP)

BEIJING (AP) — Workers who assemble Apple Inc.’s newest iPhone walked away from a factory in central China following virus outbreaks and complaints of unsafe working conditions, highlighting the clash between the disease’s enduring risks and efforts to restore the global flow of goods.

Employees started leaving the Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou after some fell ill in mid-October and received no treatment, according to an employee who asked not to be identified by name. He said Foxconn has begun requiring face masks and disinfects the workplace daily but work continues normally.

“There are still people getting infected at the assembly lines, and they are still worried about going to work,” the employee said Monday by phone from Zhengzhou. He said he had left the factory and planned to return to his hometown.

As other countries ease anti-virus curbs, exporters in China are trying to fill orders while coping with a “Zero COVID” strategy that abruptly shuts down cities for a week or longer to contain outbreaks.

In a statement, Foxconn said it is using “closed-loop management” in Zhengzhou, an official term for having employees live in their workplace with no outside contact. The company said it was providing three meals a day. It did not say when those measures began.

Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision Electronics Inc., didn’t respond to questions about how many employees were infected, whether new cases were occurring or to complaints that people who were sick in early October received no treatment.

The activist group China Labor Watch said Foxconn was under pressure from Apple to maintain its output of the iPhone 14 during its “peak production season.” It said the factory in Zhengzhou, with 90 assembly lines, is the main iPhone assembly site.

Apple didn’t respond to questions about how production might be affected. The Foxconn statement said the company would coordinate with other factories to “reduce any potential impact.”

It wasn’t clear how many workers left the factory, which Foxconn says employs about 200,000 people. The employee in Zhengzhou and social media posts said as many as half had left.

President Xi Jinping’s government faces mounting public frustration over controls that have confined tens of millions of people to their homes. That has boiled over into protests and fights with police in Shanghai and other cities.

Foxconn, headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, is the biggest contract assembler of smartphones and other consumer electronics. Its factories, with hundreds of thousands of employees, are among China’s biggest private employers.

Companies are required to pay for anti-disease controls and monitoring of employees for possible infections. That gives them an incentive to cut corners. Those with large workforces might miss violations.

Foxconn reacted slowly, according to news reports, China Labor Watch and the employee reached by phone in Zhengzhou.

“At the beginning of the outbreak, no one took care of the workers that were confirmed as having contracted the virus,” said the employee. “No food and no medicine.”

Later, when employees who tested positive were quarantined, Foxconn used sites including nearby unfinished apartment buildings, according to China Labor Watch. Employees complained that the food the factory provided was poor quality.

Employees who live in crowded factory dormitories worry about neighbors who test positive and are released after one week in quarantine, said the employee in Zhengzhou.

“They have no choice but to leave,” he said.

Videos on social media showed people said to be Foxconn employees climbing over fences and walking down a road with their belongings. It was impossible to confirm whether all the videos showed Foxconn employees.

Volunteers from nearby villages put out food and drinks for the workers. Governments of cities near Zhengzhou appealed to Foxconn workers to report to authorities in their hometowns to undergo quarantines.

Foxconn and the city government of Zhengzhou announced Sunday they would arrange transportation for employees who want to leave.

“The welfare of our workforce is a priority,” the Foxconn statement said. It appealed for “understanding and support.”

“Zero COVID” has helped to keep China’s infection numbers low but at a rising cost that has prompted warnings the ruling party needs a less disruptive strategy. Restaurants and other small businesses have shut down due to high costs and plunging revenue.

The economic impact of anti-virus controls is so severe that foreign companies are shifting planned investments to other countries, business groups say.

Apple Inc. recently announced it will also make its iPhone 14 at a Foxconn factory in India.

Fewer than one in five companies surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai rank China as No. 1 in investment plans, down from 27% last year, according to the chamber. It said travel curbs and quarantines have “dulled the desire” of executives to visit.

“Unless China harmonizes its COVID policies with the rest of the world, this fall from favor may be repeated next year,” the chamber said in a report.

Auto factories, securities firms and and some other companies in Shanghai kept operating under “closed loop” conditions after the city shut down in March following virus outbreaks.

They paid bonuses of up to 100% of salary to employees, according to Bettina Schoen-Behanzin, a vice president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.

“The costs are quite high,” she said.

___

AP researcher Yu Bing in Beijing and Business Writer Zen Soo in Hong Kong contributed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Republican nominee for U.S. Senate Herschel Walker speaks during a campaign rally on Thursda...
Associated Press

Ga. Senate runoff between Warnock, Walker has bitter closing

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (AP) — Ads with the candidates’ ex-wives. Cries of “liar” flying in both directions. Stories of a squalid apartment building and abortions under pressure. Questioning an opponent’s independence. His intellect. His mental stability. His religious faith. The extended Senate campaign in Georgia between the Democratic incumbent, Raphael Warnock, and his Republican challenger, […]
1 day ago
FILE - Former Minister for Health Matt Hancock arrives with MP's and Peers for a service of remembr...
Associated Press

Disgraced former UK Minister seeks jungle redemption

LONDON (AP) — Matt Hancock, the U.K’s scandal-prone former health secretary, is seeking an unlikely form of redemption Sunday: attempting to win “I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here” — a grueling, often gruesome reality show set in the Australian jungle. Hancock led Britain’s response to COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic, […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Airbnb has a plan to fix cleaning fees

Pretty much everyone hates Airbnb cleaning fees — those pesky charges tacked on to your vacation rental bill that supposedly cover the costs to get the place ready for the next visitors. Travelers don’t like the expense, and hosts don’t like charging them, either. Dennis Shirshikov, an Airbnb host who owns a rental property in […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Railway workers in Austria to strike Monday in pay standoff

BERLIN (AP) — Railway workers in Austria are set to hold a one-day strike on Monday after a failed round of talks in pay negotiations. The Austria Press Agency reported Sunday that both sides said the fifth round of talks on pay for some 50,000 employees of about 65 railway operators, including the main national […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2017 file photo, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer informs a migrant c...
Associated Press

Mexican asylum seekers set their sights north — on Canada

MONTREAL (AP) — Pedro Meraz says living in Colima, Mexico, was like living in a war zone, with shootings, burning cars and dismembered bodies being left outside of schools. When his wife Rocio Gonzalez, a 28-year-old lawyer who worked with abused women, began receiving death threats from a cartel and the local authorities ignored her […]
1 day ago
General view of the damaged Antonivsky Bridge in Kherson, Ukraine, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. The bridg...
Associated Press

Pockets of shelling across Ukraine as wintry warfare looms

KHERSON, Ukraine (AP) — Shelling by Russian forces struck several areas in eastern and southern Ukraine overnight as utility crews continued a scramble to restore power, water and heating following widespread strikes in recent weeks, officials said Sunday. With persistent snowfall blanketing the capital, Kyiv, Sunday, analysts predicted that wintry weather — bringing with it […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Workers walk out of iPhone factory, highlighting virus woes