Yesterday it emerged that a massive riot, involving some 2,000 employees, had resulted in the temporary closure of China’s Foxconn facility, which produces many of the world’s most popular electronic devices. Now, Foxconn workers are saying that harsh practices by company security guards are to blame for a melee that left forty people in hospital.
Foxconn’s Taiyuan facility employs an astounding 79,000 employees and builds many of our favorite tech gadgets, including Apple’s brand new iPhone 5. However, by most accounts it’s no Santa’s workshop; last year, workers complained that they were under-paid and over-worked, and that many had never even seen the tech toys they helped to produce.
That’s why yesterday’s riot, while incredible, was not necessarily surprising. If workers are under intense pressure to churn out quality tech hardware (and paid little for their trouble), one would expect them to lash out eventually.
Foxconn workers are now saying that security guards are overly aggressive when dealing with assembly line employees, and that the fractured relationship between these two groups led to the sizeable scuffle.
However, the situation is somewhat complex. Recently Foxconn has transferred workers from other projects to the iPhone 5 line and one 20-year-old employee says this new group of employees has reacted against the behavior of security officials.
“I think some of these transfers were more extreme in their approach,” the employee said. “The workers native to Taiyuan also probably couldn’t take it any more with the guards.”
When news of the riot first broke, Foxconn officials insisted the violence had nothing to do with company business. Today the firm has repeated that point, insisting that the clash was the result of a “personal dispute” between guards and line workers.
Meanwhile, a 23-year-old employee says the riot had a positive result for those assembly line workers. “The attitudes of the security guards have improved,” he said. “It’s not quite as harsh.”