Updated with Foxconn denial at the bottom..
With delays and retail shortages reported by retailers and carriers worldwide for the launch of the iPhone 5, reports from today claim that pressure on Foxconn employees in Apple’s assembly factories has lead to a strike among thousands of workers. China Labor Watch (via Gizmodo) reported today that 3,000 to 4,000 workers at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant went on strike earlier today due to overtime demands and lack of training. According to the report, Foxconn has “raised overly strict demands on product quality without providing worker training for the corresponding skills.” This had led to fights between supervisors and workers, and ultimately the strike:
This led to workers turning out products that did not meet standards and ultimately put a tremendous amount of pressure on workers. Additionally, quality control inspectors fell into to conflicts with workers and were beat up multiple times by workers. Factory management turned a deaf ear to complaints about these conflicts and took no corrective measures. The result of both of these circumstances was a widespread work stoppage on the factory floor among workers and inspectors… The majority of workers who participated in this strike were workers from the OQC (onsite quality control) line.
The quality control concerns were apparently related to issues users have reported with scratching on the exterior of the iPhone 5:
It was reported that factory management and Apple, despite design defects, raised strict quality demands on workers, including indentations standards of 0.02mm and demands related to scratches on frames and back covers. With such demands, employees could not even turn out iPhones that met the standard. This led to a tremendous amount of pressure on workers. On top of this, they were not permitted to have a vacation during the holiday. This combination of factors led to the strike.
Last month, Apple Marketing Senior Vice President Phil Schiller responded to a customer regarding the issue. He called the scratches and chips “normal” for any aluminum product.
It is unclear at this point, how the strike might affect supplies of iPhone 5 going forward. However, late last month, Apple continued experiencing shortages and delays for the rollout of the device to 22 new countries. While yield issues with the device’s in-cell display technology was originally thought to be behind production delays, reports in September confirmed supplier Sharp began mass production after weeks of delays. China Labor Watch said today “multiple iPhone 5 production lines from various factory buildings were in a state of paralysis for the entire day.”
Update: Reuters got a statement denying the stoppage from admittedly biased Foxconn:
“Any reports that there has been an employee strike are inaccurate,” the [Foxconn] said in an emailed statement, adding that “there has been no workplace stoppage in that facility or any other Foxconn facility and production has continued on schedule”.
Foxconn said the quarrels happened on October 1-2, and were “immediately addressed and measures taken, including providing additional staff for the lines in question.”
Foxconn also said that employees who worked over China’s National Day break did so voluntarily and were paid three times their usual hourly compensation, as demanded by law.
But China’s official Xinhua news agency quoted a government spokesman in Zhengzhou as saying some 100 quality inspectors at Foxconn refused to work for an hour on Friday after one was allegedly beaten by workers irate over the inspection demands.
“The instruction to strengthen quality inspections for the iPhone 5 was given by Apple Inc. following multiple complaints from customers regarding aesthetic flaws in the phone,” said the unnamed spokesman for the industrial zone that holds the Foxconn plant. Apple has not commented on the incident.