Foxconn Factory Shut Down by Worker Riots

A Foxcon factory in central China that assembles the new iPhone 5 has shut down indefinitely after a riot involving 2,000 workers.

The Taiwanese electronics maker said the disturbance began with a personal dispute that grew to a brawl and spun out of control at the factory in Tiayuan, China, which employs 79,000 workers.

Workers at the plant reported on the Chinese mircoblogging service Sina Weibo that the riot was triggered by security guards severely beating a worker. Previous reports from Foxconn workers complained of having to queue up at the start and end of their shifts for long waits to pass through metal detectors at the factory doors, as well as heavy-handed treatment by guards at exit points.

Chinese news reports said that 5,000 police were dispatched to quell the violence, which left at least 40 in the hospital and an unknown number of workers arrested.

The Tiayuan plant reportedly assembled the back panels of the iPhone 5, the same sort of work done by the Chinese reporter who went undercover as a line worker at Foxconn for a report on factory conditions for the Shanghai Evening Post.  The report described squalid dormitories and oppressive conditions on the factory floor.

At the behest of Apple, one of Foxconn’s biggest customers, the Taiwanese company has dramatically increased spending this year to improve conditions for its Chinese factory workers.  To ramp up production for the launch of the iPhone 5, however, Foxconn has reportedly been busing in college students for two-month “internships” working on the factory floor.  The recent infusion into the workforce of college students unused to factory work may have made Foxconn facilities more vulnerable to unrest.

About 100 workers rioted at a Foxconn plant in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu in June.

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