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Apple’s biggest iPhone maker Foxconn apologizes for pay disputes that sparked protests in China

BEIJING (AP) — The company that assembles Apple Inc.’s iPhones apologized Thursday for what it said was a technical error that led to protests by employees over the payment of salaries offered to lure them into a plant subject to anti-virus restrictions.

Protests erupted in the central city of Zhengzhou on Tuesday after employees complained that Foxconn Technology Group was demanding they do extra work to receive the higher salary promised by recruiters. Foxconn 2317,
is trying to rebuild its workforce after thousands of staff quit last month following complaints of unsafe conditions.

Videos on social media showed police in white protective gear kicking and bludgeoning protesting workers.

Foxconn, the largest contract assembler of smartphones and other electronics for Apple AAPL,
and other global brands, blamed the dispute on a “technical error” in the process of adding new employees. He promised that they would receive the promised salary.

“We apologize for an input error in the computer system and guarantee that the actual salary is the same as that agreed and the official recruitment posters,” said a statement from the company. He promised to “do his best to actively resolve reasonable employee concerns and requests.”

The dispute comes as the ruling Communist Party tries to contain a rise in coronavirus cases without closing factories, as it did in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Its tactics include “closed-loop management,” or having employees live in their workplace without outside contact.

Authorities vowed last month to reduce economic disruption by reducing quarantine times and making other changes to China’s “zero-COVID” strategy, which aims to isolate every case. Even so, the spike in infections has prompted authorities to suspend access to neighborhoods and factories and close office buildings, shops and restaurants in parts of many cities.

On Thursday, residents of eight districts in Zhengzhou, which have a total population of 6.6 million, were told to stay at home for five days. Daily mass testing has been ordered in what the city government has called a “war of annihilation” against the virus.

Apple previously warned iPhone 14 shipments would be delayed after employees left the Zhengzhou factory and access to the industrial zone around the facility was suspended following outbreaks.

To lure new workers, Foxconn has offered 25,000 yuan ($3,500) for two months of work, employees say, nearly 50% more than what the media says its highest salaries are generally.

Employees complained that after arriving they were told they had to work an additional two months at a lower wage to receive the higher salary, according to one employee, Li Sanshan.

Foxconn has offered up to 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to new recruits who choose to leave, financial news outlet Cailianshe reported, citing unidentified recruiting agents.

Foxconn’s statement on Thursday said departing employees would receive unspecified “care subsidies,” but gave no details. He promised “full support” for those left behind.

The protests in Zhengzhou come amid public frustration over restrictions that have confined millions of people to their homes. Videos on social media show residents in some areas tearing down barricades set up to enforce neighborhood closures.

Foxconn, headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan, earlier denied what it said were online comments that employees infected with the virus were living in factory dormitories.