China factory unrest a fresh headache for Foxconn

Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:29am EDT
 
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By Michael Martina

TAIYUAN, China (Reuters) - A brawl at a Foxconn factory that disrupted production at Apple's main China supplier for 24 hours highlights regimented dormitory life and thuggish security as major sources of labor tension in China.

While unrest often flares in China as low-paid workers agitate for better pay and conditions, the conflict at Foxconn's Taiyuan facility in northern China was notable for its scale and severity, even if not directly related to shop-floor conditions.

It marked a blow to Apple's top supplier as it ramps up production to meet orders for the iPhone 5 and seeks to rehabilitate its image after a labor audit this year found flaws.

Foxconn does not say which of its plants supply Apple but an employee told Reuters that the Taiyuan plant was among those that assembled and made parts for the iPhone 5. Some workers said they were making the iPhone 4s and some reported an increase in production targets of about 20 percent since June.

Details of the melee remain sketchy as police and company officials investigate, but employees interviewed by Reuters said tension between workers and security guards boiled over on Sunday evening after a worker was severely beaten.

That led to thousands joining the fracas and about 40 people were injured, according to Foxconn and Chinese media, while thousands of police were deployed to quell the unrest.

A 19-year-old worker in hospital with back and hand injuries said he was angered by the rough security guards and a culture of managers cursing workers.

"It doesn't matter who you are, you shouldn't curse people like that," said the worker surnamed Liu. "They do it all the time. If it happens over a long time, it builds up and of course it makes people angry and they go crazy like that."   Continued...

 
Workers clean up glass shards from the broken windows of a security room near paramilitary police vehicles parked near an entrance of a Foxconn Tech-Industry Park in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, September 24, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer