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iPhone factory workers bussed home to avoid COVID, Foxconn urges them to stay

Don't the factory workers of China know that the season of huge shopping sprees starts next week?

One of the plants at which Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn makes Apple's iPhone is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19, potentially imperilling supply.

China retains strict COVID management policies that require cities where infections are detected to shut down. Essential services and industries are offered some exceptions, but staff are generally required to avoid circulating in the community – which means taking up residence at their workplace.

The government of the city of Zhengzhou, where the Foxconn plant is located, has used its WeChat account to detail initiatives including assurances that workers will be cared for if they choose to stay at the plant.

But subsequent posts state that many workers want to go home, so the city and Foxconn have arranged buses to make that possible.

Chinese media report they've accessed posts to Foxconn's intranet detailing conditions in the plant, where three meals a day are on offer, as are daily COVID tests. Staff must wear protective equipment, except in their on-site dormitories.

Japan's Nikkei reports Foxconn is offering bonuses to staff who stay and work.

The Zhengzhou plant serves both Chinese and global markets. Any slowing of output is never welcome, but for Foxconn and Apple disruptions could not come at a worse time, given that three major shopping sprees are imminent.

China's "Singles' Day" money melee officially occupies November 11, but sales sprawl to either side of that date. Black Friday and Cyber Monday follow on November 25 and 28, before a little festival you may have heard of called "Christmas" which takes place around December 25.

Those orgies of acquisition are a big reason the December quarter is nearly always Apple's peak revenue season. And lest you think that iThings for the season are already upon the seas and a Zhengzhou slowdown might not matter, remember that Apple has in the past lamented high air freight costs denting its December quarter results.

Foxconn staff in the workers' paradise that is China are therefore being asked to ensure that shiny new things flow into the world's stores in coming weeks – at the potential cost of their health and families. ®

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