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Massive strike at Foxconn's iPhone 5 factory

Up to 4,000 workers walk out

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As many as 4,000 workers at Foxconn's Zhengzhou factory reportedly walked off the job on Friday in protest of the stricter quality-control requirements for Apple's iPhone 5 assembly line.

The strike is said to have begun at approximately 1pm local time, and as of this writing it is not clear whether it is still ongoing, although it is said to have continued through at least 11pm. If so, it could be a significant hiccup for iPhone 5 production, as Foxconn's factory lines typically run 24 hours per day.

According to a report from China Labor Watch, production workers at the iPhone plant felt Apple and Foxconn management had been holding them to virtually impossible standards, complaining about the tiniest scratch or imperfection while requiring detail work at sub-millimeter accuracy, all without offering sufficient training.

This led to frequent arguments between the production workers and the quality-control inspectors who examined their work, and these conflicts often turned physical. In at least two incidents, large-scale brawls are said to have broken out between production and quality-control workers, causing damage to factory property and leaving some workers hospitalized.

The Zhengzhou plant isn't the only one that has been troubled by violence since the manufacturing push for Cupertino's latest phone began. In September, some 2,000 workers at Foxconn's Taiyuan facility reportedly rioted for several hours in an incident that is rumored to have been triggered when security guards beat a factory employee.

For Zhengzhou workers, management's refusal to allow them time off for a national holiday seems to have been the last straw, resulting in a mass work stoppage that is estimated to involve between 3,000 and 4,000 workers.

The incident is only the latest black eye for Foxconn, which has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months over repeated accusations that its factories are little more than glorified labor camps, complete with long hours, filthy living accommodations, and hostile and unsafe working conditions.

The electronics maker insists that it is working to correct any labor problems at its plants, and in August it announced that it had received a glowing report on its reform efforts from the Fair Labor Organization. But local civil rights groups dismissed that claim, calling the auditing process for working conditions at Foxconn's factories "fundamentally flawed."

Foxconn has so far issued no statement regarding Friday's strike, and it could not immediately be reached for comment. ®

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