BEIJING — Police have beaten workers protesting a pay dispute at Apple’s biggest iPhone factory, whose new model is being held up by controls imposed as China tries to contain a rise in COVID-19 cases. 19.
Foxconn, the largest contract assembler of smartphones and other electronics, is struggling to fulfill iPhone 14 orders after thousands of workers left the factory in the central city of Zhengzhou last month in following complaints about unsafe working conditions.
China’s status as an export powerhouse relies on factories such as Foxconn assembling consumer electronics, toys and other world goods.
The ruling Communist Party is trying to contain the latest wave of epidemics without shutting down factories and the rest of its economy as it did in early 2020. Its tactics include “closed loop management” in which workers live in their factories without outside contact.
Foxconn offered a higher salary to attract more workers to the Zhengzhou factory to assemble the iPhone 14, which retails from $799 in the United States.
On Tuesday, a protest erupted after employees who had traveled long distances to take jobs at the factory complained that the company had changed the terms of their pay, according to employee Li Sanshan.
Li said he quit a restaurant job when he saw an advertisement promising $3,500 for two months of work. This would be a significant increase over the average salary for this type of work in the region.
After the employees arrived, the company said they had to work an additional two months at lower wages to receive the 25,000 yuan, according to Li.
“Foxconn posted very enticing job offers, and workers from all parts of the country came, only to find they were being ridiculed,” he said.
Videos online showed thousands of masked people facing rows of police in white protective gear with plastic riot shields. Police kicked and beat a protester with batons after he grabbed a metal pole that had been used to beat him. The people who shot the footage said they were shot at the site.
The protests in Zhengzhou come as the ruling Communist Party faces growing frustration over restrictions in parts of China that have closed shops and offices and confined millions of people to their homes.
This turned into protests in some cities. Videos on social media show residents tearing down barricades set up to enforce neighborhood closures.
The ruling party pledged this month to try to reduce disruption by shortening quarantines and making other changes. But the party sticks to one “zero-COVID” a strategy that aims to isolate each case while other governments relax controls and try to live with the virus.
The protest in Zhengzhou lasted until Wednesday morning as thousands of workers gathered outside dormitories and clashed with factory security guards, according to Li.
Apple Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.