The staff departures come amid concerns about Apple’s ability to deliver products for the busy holiday period.

A Foxconn source familiar with the matter told Reuters news agency on Friday that more than 20,000 employees at Apple supplier’s huge Chinese factory Foxconn, most of them new hires not yet working on production lines, have left.

The departure of the world’s largest iPhone factory is a new blow to the Taiwanese company grappling with tough COVID-19 restrictions that have fueled Discontent among workers and production disruptions before Christmas and the Lunar New Year holidays in January.

Concerns are growing about Apple’s ability to deliver products for the busy holiday period as workers remain restless at the Zhengzhou factory, which produces the popular iPhone 14 models in the US.

The source said the departures will complicate Foxconn’s goal of resuming full production by the end of November, after sometimes violent disruptions.

Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Corporation, declined to comment. Apple, which said Thursday that it has employees at the factory, declined to comment on Friday.

In a rare case of open dissent in China, staff have complained about sharing dormitories with colleagues who have tested positive for COVID. They claim to have been misled about the factory compensation benefits that account for 70 percent of global iPhone shipments.

Foxconn on Thursday offered 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to protesting conscripts who agreed to resign and leave the factory.

The company has apologized for a “technical error” related to wages when hiring, which workers say was one of the factors leading to protests that included clashes with security personnel.

Videos posted on Chinese social media on Friday showed crowds and long lines of workers laden with luggage lining up to wait for buses. “It’s time to go home,” one person wrote.

Another Foxconn source familiar with the matter said some new employees had left campus, but did not say how many. This person said that leaving has no effect on current production. New employees still need to take training courses before working online.

“The accident had a great impact on our public image but had a minimal impact on our (current) capacity. Our current capacity was not affected,” the source said.

“There’s a lot companies can do about pandemic prevention… It’s been an issue for a while. This is an issue everyone faces,” this person said, referring to other worker disruptions caused by the tougher restrictions of COVID, including disruptions at another supplier. for Apple, Quanta, in May.

The unrest at the Foxconn factory comes as China records record numbers of coronavirus infections and grapples with mounting lockdowns that have added to frustration among citizens across the country. It also revealed communication problems and a lack of trust in Foxconn management among some employees.

Foxconn launched a hiring drive this month, promising higher bonuses and salaries after it was forced to enact COVID restrictions in October. The restrictions forced the company to lay off many employees, prompting many to flee.



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