Foxconn stops production after brawl breaks out among 10,000 workers
THE GIANT electronics manufacturer Foxconn was forced to stop production at a major plant in China after a dormitory brawl escalated into a free-for-all of violence among 10,000 workers from different provinces.
It is from plants such as Taiyuan, in Shanxi province in north China, that the new iPhone 5 comes, as well as Sony PlayStations and Hewlett-Packard PCs. The Taiyuan plant employs 79,000 people cranking out car electronic components, consumer goods and precision mouldings.
Most smartphones, PCs or tablet computers sold internationally have some input from a Foxconn factory.
A statement from Foxconn’s Taiwanese parent company, Hon Hai, said the incident began “as a personal dispute between several employees” in a privately managed dormitory for workers.
The Xinhua news agency had more details, saying the fight broke out at about 11pm on Sunday, “attracting more than 10,000 spectators and triggering chaos”. Online footage showed broken factory windows, crowds of workers and a police car overturned.
“About 5,000 policemen were sent to the scene, bringing it under control at 9am Monday,” Xinhua said, citing local public security bureau officials.
Among the 40 people who were injured, three were in a serious condition, with most of the others slightly injured, a senior official with the government of Taiyuan city told Xinhua.
Foxconn, owned by Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou, has 1.3 million employees around the world, about one million of whom work in China. About half of them are in southern China, but rising costs in the booming south has prompted Foxconn to set up in northern provinces such as Shanxi.
The row was sparked by workers from Shandong province clashing with their Henan province counterparts.
Regional rivalries are as intense in China as anywhere, but tensions can be heightened by living in cramped, single-sex dormitories many miles from home.
Two years ago, Foxconn, the world’s largest maker of computer components, was roundly criticised over working conditions after a string of 13 suicides by employees at the company’s plants in southern China.
The company’s close links with Apple, probably the company with the highest profile in the world, has meant that Foxconn often comes in for public scrutiny about its working environment.
The suicides were blamed on tough working conditions, prompting calls for better treatment of staff. Foxconn was forced to increase wages and construct safety nets on the roofs of the factory buildings to stop people jumping off.
The Washington-based Fair Labour Association has called on Hon Hai to step up its efforts to improve working conditions.
Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook visited an iPhone factory in Zhengzhou in Henan in March.
Earlier this month there was a flood of stories posted online saying students from local vocational schools were being forced to make USB cables for the iPhone 5 at a Foxconn plant in Jiangsu province.
Foxconn said it had internship programmes of between one and six months running with vocational schools in China, representing about 2.7 per cent of its total China workforce, but that no one was forced to work and anyone could leave at any time.