Chinese workers flee Covid lockdown at iPhone factory ↦

Sam Hancock, reporting for the BBC:

Workers have broken out of Apple’s largest iPhone assembly factory in China after a Covid outbreak forced staff to lockdown at the workplace. Video shared online showed about 10 people jumping a fence outside the plant, owned by manufacturer Foxconn, in the central city of Zhengzhou. Chinese people and businesses are continuing to grapple with President Xi Jinping’s rigid zero-Covid policy….

Foxconn, which acts as a supplier to US-based Apple, has hundreds of thousands of workers at its Zhengzhou complex and has not provided an official count of how many are infected. The Taiwan-based company claimed on Sunday that it would not stop workers from leaving. However, in footage shared on Chinese social media, and by the BBC’s China correspondent Stephen McDonnell, workers were allegedly filmed escaping from the grounds to begin lengthy walks back to their hometowns in a bid to avoid being caught on public transport.

That report was from a few days ago. On Wednesday Reuters reported:

China ordered an industrial park that houses an iPhone factory belonging to Foxconn to enter a seven-day lockdown on Wednesday, in a move set to intensify pressure on the Apple supplier as it scrambles to quell worker discontent at the base…

Foxconn told Reuters in a statement that its campus there continued operating under a “closed-loop management” system, referring to a bubble-like arrangement commonly imposed as part of virus prevention measures in China, where employees sleep, live and work isolated from the wider world.

More detail from this New York Times report:

[Foxconn] banned eating in the factory’s cafeteria, forced employees to take long, circuitous routes from their dormitories to reduce contact with others, and required daily coronavirus testing and temperature checks.

But what really worried workers were accounts that emerged from employees who had been taken into quarantine after testing positive. At the mercy of Foxconn to feed themselves, some said they were getting inadequate food or none at all, and were lacking other necessities.

As these stories spread on social media, other workers decided they were better off fleeing their job than risk catching the virus and being forced into quarantine. Two workers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying they feared retaliation from the company, said hundreds of workers had left the plant.

There’s a lot to ponder here, from the actions of Foxconn to the policies of the Chinese government to the reactions of factory workers, all written across the canvas of the factories that assemble Apple’s most popular product.

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