After a 2,000-employee riot forced Foxconn to shut down its Taiyuan plant on Sunday, a watchdog group says that the iPhone-manufacturer needs to treat its employees better, even in the face of record iPhone 5 demand. “Foxconn factories have a history of maintaining militaristic management practices as well as putting an inordinate amount of stress on workers,” China Labor Watch President Li Qiang said in a press release. “Given such stress, the workers are on edge, and incidents like the one yesterday are more likely to occur. “
40 workers were injured in the riot, which allegedly began as an altercation between security guards and workers at 11 pm on Sunday evening. China’s Xinhua news agency claims that the riot was quelled by 9 a.m. local time after 5,000 police responded to the violence.
Qiang blames harsh conditions such as long work hours and physical abuse for pushing workers over the edge. “Workers are required to work 10-hour day and night shifts with little rest, receiving low wages, and all the while suffering very strict factory rules on behavior and suffering the verbal and physical abuse of guards,” he said.
Sunday’s riot is just the latest in a long line of infamous incidents at Foxconn plants over the past few years, including a rash of worker suicides and an industrial accident that occurred on an iPad assembly line. Last March, Apple sought to quell the controversy when it invited inspectors from the Fair Labor Association to visit Foxconn facilities. However, activists like Qiang called the FLA’s eventual report a “PR Stunt,” which didn’t address the most serious problems.
While it remains unclear whether the workers involved were manufacturing iPhone parts, Qiang says that both Apple and Foxconn are legally and morally responsible for the working conditions in Taiyuan and need to treat their workers with more respect.