China wants retired military staff to help boost production at the world’s largest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou.
The call came from a Veteran Affairs Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army in the same province as the plant. Output at the Foxconn factory has been hit by a local Covid outbreak.
In an open letter posted on messaging app WeChat, the bureau said that veterans were always under the command of the Communist Party and should “show up where there’s a need”. It urged them to “answer the government’s call” and “take part in the resumption of production”.
Thousands of workers in China were locked in their working places during the Covid pandemic
Foxconn, whose headquarters are in Taiwan, has many factories in China.
The plant in Zhengzhou, a city with a population of about 10 million, employs more than 200,000 workers and produces 70% of iPhones globally – about 500,000 a day.
China’s Covid wave earlier this year has forced the temporary closure of a few Foxconn factories.
In order to maintain production, the Zhengzhou factory has been put under a “Covid bubble” since the beginning of 2022.
Any staff who test positive are sent to quarantine centres within the factory, but this has not prevented the workers from being infected. A few cases were found inside the factory in October – at the same time the city of Zhengzhou announced a lockdown in some districts. The actual number of infections in Foxconn was not released. The outbreak triggered panic inside the factory. Videos shared on social media showed a large number of workers jumping fences outside the plant in an attempt to flee.
Many Foxconn staff walked miles along a road because there was no public transport available. Local authorities arranged shuttle buses for workers returning to Foxconn
Foxconn production has since been interrupted. Research group TrendForce found just over two-thirds of the production lines in the factory were under operation.
China’s state-affiliated media Global Times estimated there was a need for 10,000 extra workers at the factory.
Online news site NetEast reported that Foxconn has asked the local government to send at least one person from each village to the factory, but the BBC cannot verify this claim.
Foxconn is the biggest employer in Zhengzhou and a top export company. By September 2022, it had exported more than 261bn yuan (£30.9bn) worth of products.
Foxconn and Apple have not yet responded to the BBC’s requests for comment.