THE company responsible for manufacturing Apple’s iPhones has suspended production at a factory in China after a brawl involving as many as 2,000 employees injured 40 people.
The fight erupted at a privately managed dormitory near a Foxconn Technology Group factory in the northern city of Taiyuan, the company and Chinese police said.
A police statement reported by the official Xinhua News Agency said 5,000 officers were dispatched to the scene.
Foxconn makes iPhones and iPads for Apple and also assembles products for Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.
It is one of China’s biggest employers, with some 1.2 million workers in factories in Taiyuan, the southern city of Shenzhen, in Chengdu in the west and in Zhengzhou in central China.
The fight in Taiyuan started at 11pm local time on Sunday, “drawing a large crowd of spectators and triggering chaos”, a police spokesman was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
Order was restored after about four hours and several people were arrested, said the company, a unit of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. It said 40 people were taken to hospital for treatment.
The violence did not appear to be work-related, the company and police said. Comments posted on Chinese internet bulletin boards said it might have erupted after a security guard hit an employee.
In a posting on the Chinese Twitter-like microblog site Sinam Weibo, user “Jo-Liang” said that four or five security guards beat a worker almost to death.
Another user, “Fan de Sa Hai”, quoted a friend from Taiyuan as saying guards beat up two workers from Henan province and in response, other workers set bed quilts on fire and tossed them out of dormitory windows. The accounts could not be independently confirmed.
Geoff Crothall, communication director at China Labour Bulletin, a labour rights group in Hong Kong, said: “Clearly there is deep-seated frustration and anger among the employees and no outlet, apart from violence, for that frustration to be released,”
“There is no dialogue and no means of resolving disputes, no matter how minor. So it is not surprising when such disputes escalate into violence.”
Photographs posted on Sina Weibo showed broken windows, a burned vehicle and police with riot helmets, shields and clubs.
The company has faced scrutiny over complaints in the past about wages and working hours. It raised minimum pay and promised in March to limit hours after an auditor hired by Apple found Foxconn employees regularly were required to work more than 60 hours a week.
The Taiwanese-owned company declined to say whether the factory was involved in iPhone production.
• Apple has sold more than five million of its new iPhones within three days – despite customer complaints about some of its software.
Fans of the brand flocked to shops for the latest technology when it went on sale on Friday.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “Demand for iPhone 5 has been incredible and we are working hard to get an iPhone 5 into the hands of every customer who wants one as quickly as possible. While we have sold out of our initial supply, stores continue to receive iPhone 5 shipments regularly and customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date. We appreciate everyone’s patience and are working hard to build enough iPhone 5s for everyone.”
Apple’s new phone costs between £529 and £699.
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