Factory workers at a Shanghai facility that makes Apple products rioted on Thursday, clashing with guards in hazmat suits and jumping across security barriers in an apparent mutiny against strict coronavirus restrictions, dramatic social media video shows.
The news comes more than a month into a citywide lockdown in Shanghai that has seen desperate residents confined to their apartments — some without adequate food — as police patrol the streets.
Meanwhile, many Shanghai facilities including the Apple factory have sought to keep operating during the lockdown though a “closed loop” production system. Under this system, employees are generally banned from leaving company facilities even during off hours and are forced to live and sleep in the factory or at a nearby dormitory. They are not allowed to see other people, including their own family members.
At the Apple production plant, which is run by Taiwanese company Quanta Computer and makes MacBook laptops, employees had been suddenly banned from returning to their dormitory area during off-duty hours due to coronavirus restrictions, Taiwanese newspaper UDN reported.
Video shared online by US government-backed news service Radio Free Asia showed hundreds of angry workers in white shirts yelling and hopping barricades as overwhelmed guards in hazmat suits tried to stop them.
Another section of the video shows a woman hitting and screaming at a man as the man tries to choke another person. It’s unclear whether any of the people involved in that confrontation were guards, but the person who was being choked appeared to be wearing a workers’ uniform.
Apple and Quanta Computer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Anonymous plant employees confirmed to Bloomberg that the clash had occurred, adding that employees were tired and frustrated with the coronavirus restrictions.
More than 50% of Quanta’s revenue comes from assembling MacBooks and other products for Apple, according to Bloomberg. The company also reportedly works for Microsoft, HP and Dell.
This is far from the first time factories making Apple products have been accused of maintaining brutal working conditions.
In December, 159 women working at an iPhone production plant in India were hospitalized for food poisoning, sparking a rare worker protest.
A subsequent Reuters investigation revealed that workers at the factory had to survive off worm-infested food while living in rat-filled dorms without running water. Workers said they were forced to sleep on the floor in dormitories, with up to 30 women sleeping in a single room. At least one of the dorms had toilets with no running water, the workers said.
The women making iPhones — many which retail for more than $1,000 — were paid roughly $4.67 per day and were forced to reimburse a contractor for housing and food while working at the plant, according to the report.
After the report was published, Apple put the Foxconn-run facility “on probation” and said it will not be reopened until it meets its “strict standards.”
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