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Foxconn offers new incentives to veteran workers

Foxconn Technology Group, reeling from a crisis triggered by China’s strict zero-Covid-19 policy, is offering new incentives to entice back workers who fled its major iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, the capital of central Henan province, last month.

The perks are a sign that the Taiwanese company, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer, is desperate to get iPhone production back on track ahead of the holiday season, after delays caused by fleeing workers and violent protests. Just last week, it was paying the protesting workers to leave.

Foxconn’s Integrated Digital Product Business Group, the unit responsible for iPhone production, on Sunday announced a “returning geese” recruitment project targeting employees who left between October 1 and November 10, when tens of thousands fled over Covid-19 fears. This group of former employees could receive bonuses adding up to 12,000 yuan (US$1,672) if they came back and stayed for two months, according to a post on the company’s official WeChat account.

On top of the hourly rate of 30 yuan (US$4.2), relatively high pay for Chinese workers, Foxconn promised a bonus of 3,000 yuan if they stayed for 30 days and another 3,000 yuan if they remained in the “closed loop” compound for at least 26 days in December.

The hourly rate for January remains 30 yuan, while workers will receive a Lunar New Year “gift package” of 6,000 yuan if they turn up for work for at least 23 days in January.

Foxconn said in the WeChat post that the Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone, where the factory is based, “has been improving in terms of pandemic prevention and control, and the production and living conditions at the plant have been gradually restored”.

The factory promised that returning workers who have to be quarantined under China’s strict Covid-19 control measures can still receive the bonuses as long as they work for more than five days after their quarantine.

Over the weekend, many former workers received text messages from the company, along with a survey asking about their employment status and willingness to come back.

“Brothers and sisters at the workplace are looking forward to your return”, the survey said, according to a screenshot shared with the South China Morning Post by a former worker.

Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, has been on a hiring spree after recent Covid-19 outbreaks in Zhengzhou led to an exodus of workers, and later violent protests, which have disrupted iPhone production in the lead up to the holiday season.

In the US, many Apple fans had difficulty buying the latest iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models during the Black Friday sales after the Thanksgiving holiday. Earlier this month, Apple warned of delayed shipments of the two iPhone models due to reduced capacity at the Foxconn facility.

The Zhengzhou factory, known as “iPhone City”, usually hires some 300,000 workers at this time of the year, but tens of thousands fled late last month after reports of a Covid-19 outbreak on the campus.

Last week, violent protests broke out at the factory after some new hires arrived back, only to find they had to stay until March 15 to get bonuses, a month later than previously agreed. However, Foxconn later issued a statement saying there had been a “technical error” during the rehiring process. To try and calm the situation, the company paid each newly-hired worker 10,000 yuan to leave the campus immediately.

The protesting workers who were paid to leave do not qualify for the new incentives under the “returning geese” programme.

Before the latest crisis, Foxconn was paying a standard 500 yuan bonus for returning workers regardless of circumstances, but since losing workers due to the Covid-19 situation, the company has urged local government officials in Henan province to help find new workers.

Two former employees said the new benefits sounded more attractive, but they were still thinking about the offer because Foxconn is very strict about monitoring attendance and performance, so the actual income received could differ.

The Zhengzhou government announced last week that it would impose a five-day de facto lockdown from November 25 to November 29, calling it “mobility management”, with daily universal PCR testing for all residents.

Residents in high-risk areas are prohibited from “stepping out the door” while residents in other areas are prohibited from leaving their homes without permission. SCMP

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