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Foxconn gets back to work

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Returning workers get shuttle buses, bonuses and their own rooms — but only so they can quarantine.

The company known for making iPhones is ready to bring people back to work as the coronavirus outbreak continues to take a toll on the Chinese economy. To help sweeten the deal, Foxconn is offering bonuses, dedicated shuttles and a motivational speech by a local official.

Foxconn is the world’s largest contract electronics maker, best known for pumping out gadgets for companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, Nintendo and many others. Since the spread of the deadly Covid-19 outbreak, Foxconn had to shut down its factories in China, postponing the resumption of production until after the Lunar New Year holiday.

The extended holiday ended February 10, and the company said on Thursday that it will “cautiously” resume output at its main factories in China. But Foxconn acknowledged that the outbreak will lead to lower full-year revenue. And the company’s clients are hurting, too, with Apple now expected to ship 5% to 10% fewer iPhones than previously projected.

To get things humming again, Foxconn is reportedly offering returning workers a bonus of RMB 3,000 (USD 427) over the span of three months for starting on time. The company also sent out fleets of custom shuttle buses to pick workers up from smaller cities surrounding areas where key factories are located.

To make this happen, Foxconn has been working closely with local governments to transport workers back to work. In Shanxi, 381 Foxconn employees were reportedly picked up by a fleet of shuttle buses run by a state-owned enterprise from half a dozen small cities and ferried back to a factory in Taiyuan. The workers were greeted by a government official who gave a brief motivational speech upon their arrival.

Another shuttle transported workers from Dengfeng to Zhengzhou. The Communist party branch at the Zhengzhou factory arranged a total of 24 shuttles.

But it’s unclear how much Foxconn has been able to resume output. The company denied a Reuters report last week about the resumption of plants in China. The report also said only about 10% of Foxconn’s workforce had returned to factories, but the company didn’t offer any details on current productivity levels.

In a video published online by Pear Video, a security guard at Foxconn’s factory in Zhengzhou said the company was struggling to bring in 1,050 workers for two assembly lines over the span of four days. Foxconn did not respond to requests for comment.

But there are reasons Foxconn could be taking a cautious approach. According to the Financial Times, officials fear a large number of people returning to work could quickly spread the virus. Foxconn is also running out of room, the report says, because returning workers were given their own dormitory rooms for quarantine. These rooms normally accommodate eight workers, so Foxconn stopped the return of additional staff.

Normally, at full capacity, Foxconn’s factory in Zhengzhou has about 160,000 workers and one in Shenzhen can accommodate nearly 200,000, according to Reuters. 

But even though returning workers have their own rooms, not everything is so comfy. Workers now have to abide by stringent sanitation rules, especially in the canteen. Two online videos show workers have to take turns for lunch, and dining tables are split into four tiny cubicles, keeping people from socializing while eating.

This article first appeared in Abacus News


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