Foxconn announced over the weekend that it was shutting down a plant after a riot among its employees required more than 5,000 police officers to quell. The plant makes devices for "a number of brands," according to Foxconn, but it remains unclear if one of those brands is Apple or if one of those devices is the iPhone 5.
Frame from a YouTube Video After the Riot
Apple is facing heavy demand for its iPhone 5, which shipped on Friday, September 21st. Any disruptions to the device's production could have an impact on Apple's ability to meet that demand, which would mean fewer iPhone 5s under the Christmas tree in the West. Foxconn isn't saying whether or not Apple products are made at this plant, and Apple itself has yet to comment, as well.
That's capital's main concern, of course, which company will be effected by this shutdown, how long will the shutdown last, and how much of an effect will it have. There's a human side to this story, too, so let's look at that:
Foxconn employs 79,000 people at this one factory, which qualifies it as a middling plant, for those keeping score at home. The riot erupted after some kind of personal conflict escalated out of control. That dispute escalated into a "brawl," according to Reuters, and that brawl then spilled out into the streets in an out-and-out riot with some 1,000 people involved.
Authorities in Taiyuan, which is located in northern China, sent no fewer than 5,000 police to quell the riot and restore order. 40 people were taken to the hospital, and an unspecified number of people were arrested. Aftermath videos posted to YouTube suggest the police got things under control rather quickly.
Foxconn Riot Aftermath Video Posted to YouTube
Foxconn then shut down the plant, saying in a statement that, "The plant is closed today for investigation." According to Reuters, "paramilitary police" in full riot gear guarded the plant's entrance.
Wait, did we characterize the spark as a personal dispute? Posters on Weibo—China's analog to Twitter—said that several security guards at the plant beat a worker, reportedly near to death. Another Weibo poster said that the guards beat up two employees.
Employees, who live on-site, then started burning bed clothes, tossing the flaming masses out dormitory windows.
For its part, Foxconn claimed the riot was not work-related, saying, "The cause of this dispute is under investigation by local authorities and we are working closely with them in this process, but it appears not to have been work-related."
Apple, as the world's most valuable corporation, and Foxconn, the world's largest outsourcing manufacturer with 1.1 million employees just in China, have been under scrutiny for working conditions. Apple claims that it has the highest standards in the industry and has been working with its suppliers to enforce a code of conduct, while Foxconn has increased wages and made other improvements in working conditions.