Foxconn plant in China closes after workers’ brawl

September 24, 2012

Foxconn, which applies and assembles electronics for several top electronics companies, has closed down one of its plants after a fight broke out in a company dormitory in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan.

According to the Associated Press, it’s not clear what started the fight, but as many as 2,000 workers may have been involved. About 40 people were taken to the hospital, according to reports from the AP and state-run Chinese news sources.

Xinhua News Agency reported that the fight broke out when workers from the Shandong province fought with those from the Henan province.

The state-run news service said that as many as 5,000 police were dispatched to the fight, and had it under control by 9 a.m. The plant will be closed Monday and could reopen as early as Tuesday, the AP reported.

But there are also reports that workers were fighting with factory guards. Reuters reported that people posted messages on a Chinese micro-blogging site alleging that factory guards had beaten one or more workers, but that the reports could not be independently confirmed.

Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It’s not yet known which products made by Foxconn are manufactured at the Taiyuan plant. Foxconn makes Apple iPad and iPhones, as well as products for companies such as Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.

The company’s troubled labor history is well-known, and has come to light more and more as Apple’s iPhones and iPads have gained popularity.

There was a string of worker suicides at the company’s plant in Shenzhen in 2010, prompting the company to install anti-suicide nets around its building. The incidents brought the company into the spotlight of public scrutiny and Apple asked for an independent suicide prevention review. In May 2011, an explosion at the company’s plant in Chengdu killed three people and injured 16.

In January 2012, Apple released its own audit of worker conditions across its entire supply chain, including Foxconn plants, finding labor and environmental violations. Apple also joined the Fair Labor Association, which ran its own independent audits of three Foxconn facilities. The FLA found that over one-half of the employees at Foxconn’s assembly plants exceeded the company’s 60 hour-per-week work limit.

Foxconn most recently faced criticism when reports surfaced that it was forcing vocational workers to make iPhones to meet demands for Apple’s newest smartphone. Foxconn denied those claims, saying that workers at the plant through school programs were allowed to leave at any time.

Related stories:

Foxconn denies vocational students forced to work

Apple’s iPhone 5, in stores now

Foxconn factory shown in Marketplace video

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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