Foxconn Worker Strike Over For Now, iPhone 5 Production Resumes

A worker strike at Foxconn, the manufacturer of Apple’s iPhone 5, has ended with workers in Zhengzhou, China returning to their assembly line.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 Foxconn workers at the Zhengzou plant walked off the job early on Friday following a dispute between the production and quality teams at the factory. In a telephone interview with Businessweek, a spokesman for Hon Hai Precision Industry, Foxconn’s flagship unit, said the dispute was solved by Friday afternoon. Hon Hai Executive Director Li Qiang added that workers had returned to the plant on Saturday, after being told they would be fired if they did not show up.

The strike was triggered after workers were made to work through a holiday week and also complained of new, “overly strict” product-quality demands that had been introduced without sufficient training. Those increased demands reportedly came directly from Apple, after the electronics giant received numerous complaints about scratches on some iPhone 5 units.

Daniel Chang, an analyst with Macquarie Securities Ltd. in Taipei., told Businessweek that the Foxconn worker strike posed problems for the manufacturer:

“What’s important is the implication. At a time when China’s wage level is rising it’s creating big challenges for assembly plants like Foxconn.”

China Labor Watch had earlier reported how the majority of participants in the strike worked on the quality control line, and that conflicts between quality control inspectors and line workers over iPhones that didn’t meet standards had led to the strike.

Foxconn, which also manufactures products for Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and others, has a well-documented history of worker unrest. Late last month, a worker protest turned violent at the company’s Taiyuan plant, while a mass “suicide protest” was held by Foxconn workers at the Wuhan factory in January. While no lives were lost on that occasion, there was a number of successful suicide attempts in 2010 that forced Foxconn and Apple to improve worker conditions.