Apple supplier Foxconn will pay new hires $1,400 to quit immediately as China’s ‘iPhone city’ enters COVID lockdown

One of Apple's top iPhone suppliers is paying workers to quit and go home as it struggles to work amid labor unrest and COVID lockdowns.
In a staff release, Foxconn said it would offer newly hired employees at its Zhengzhou plant a bonus of 8,000 yuan ($1,100) for immediate resignation and another 2,000 yuan ($300) if they got back on a bus to their hometown, reports the South China Morning Post. According to Bloomberg, the bonus is more than a month's wages for Foxconn workers.
"Some employees are still concerned about the coronavirus and hope they can quit and go home," Foxconn wrote in its statement, saying it "deeply understands the concerns" of its employees.
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Foxconn, officially known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The announcement came hours after reports of violent protests at Foxconn's Zhengzhou factory, which employs up to 300,000 people. Workers left their dormitories early Wednesday morning, angered by unpaid wages and concerned about the spread of COVID. Workers clashed with security personnel and riot police had to restore order.
Foxconn confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that protests had taken place and denied any COVID-positive workers were staying in its dormitories.
COVID lockdowns
Zhengzhou officials announced on Wednesday that the city's urban areas will be locked down from Friday until November 29. The city -- sometimes called "iPhone City" due to its key position in Apple's supply chain -- reported nearly 1,000 cases on Wednesday.
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Foxconn rolled out COVID controls in late October, including requiring workers to eat in their dormitories in a bid to quell a growing outbreak. Shortly after Foxconn enforced these controls, videos surfaced on Chinese social media of workers fleeing the factory, jumping fences and hitchhiking passing vehicles.
The workers' exodus prompted Foxconn to turn to the government for help. Workers who fled the Foxconn factory told the South China Morning Post that local village officials called them on behalf of the company and encouraged them to return to work.
Apple earlier this month warned that iPhone production would be lower than expected due to disruptions at its factories as the holiday season began. State media reported that Foxconn would need up to 100,000 new workers to restore full operations.
China is battling COVID outbreaks across the country as cases peak this year, beating the previous record set in April during Shanghai's punitive two-month lockdown. The country reported 29,754 cases on Wednesday.
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The widespread outbreaks are a new test of China's "COVID Zero" policy, which uses mass testing and lockdowns to quash outbreaks entirely. These tough measures are blamed for bringing China's economy to its knees as both retail sales and factory activity fell over the past month. Nomura economists estimate that areas responsible for a fifth of China's GDP are now under some form of lockdown.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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