Foxconn, Apple's giant Taiwanese manufacturing partner, denies reports that workers at one of its Chinese factories went on strike Friday and says the only disturbances happened earlier in the week but were squelched right away.
The labor rights group that reported a strike says issues are not resolved, however. And China's factories face challenges not only with labor matters, but also its general approach to manufacturing, and global attention to its practices, notes one analyst.
Foxconn's e-mailed statement answers the claim by labor rights group China Labor Watch that thousands of workers went on strike at a Foxconn factory yesterday, bringing some iPhone 5 production lines to a halt. The labor watchdog group said 3000 to 4000 workers refused to work at a Foxconn complex in Zhengzhou because of increasing quality controls as well as an order to work through a week-long national holiday that began on Monday.
Foxconn, for its part, says employees who worked through the holiday volunteered to do so and were paid three times their regular hourly rate. The company also says the only issues with workers occurred October 1 and 2 and were "immediately addressed and measures taken, including providing additional staff for the lines in question," Reuters reports.
Foxconn also says reports of a strike are inaccurate and that work hasn't stopped at the Zhengzhou facility or any other. "[P]roduction has continued on schedule," its statement reports.
Even so, Foxconn's Chinese plants have had problems before. Last month, 2000 workers rioted at a factory in Taiyuan after what workers described as aggressive behavior from security guards.
In spite of Foxconn's claims that everything is just fine, the company has been cracking down on workers to prevent tiny indentations on the iPhone 5--the anodized aluminum on its back and edges is easily scratched and marked, especially on the black model.
China Labor Watch had claimed that a fight between workers and quality-control inspectors resulted in some injuries that sent some people to go to the hospital.
"They have such high expectations for these products, even if you raise the demands a little bit it makes a huge difference to the pressure on the workers," says Li Qiang, China Labor Watch's executive director, in an interview.
The Foxconn workers who went on strike Friday returned to work on Saturday, according to China Labor Watch.
It's hard to even verify situations like a rumored strike in China because of the way the government censors how people use websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, which might perpetuate things such as a photo of a work stoppage, notes Roger Kay, tech market analyst and founder and CEO of Endpoint Technologies.
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