More details have emerged following eye-opening video footage of MacBook Pro workers breaking through barriers and fighting with guards at a Quanta plant in Shanghai.
While frustration at highly-restrictive ‘closed-loop’ production practices was the key issue for workers, it appears that two other factors played a role …
Unlike most countries around the world, China is attempting to completely eradicate COVID-19 from within its borders. Even a handful of infections leads to highly-restrictive lockdowns, with most places of work and schools closed. Even food shopping is controlled.
Quanta – in common with other Apple suppliers and more – is operating a ‘closed-loop’ production regime. This approach was pioneered in Wuhan during the initial COVID-19 outbreak, and has been extensively used in Shanghai, where there have been multiple lockdowns.
Closed-loop production means:
- Companies provide dormitory accommodation within the overall campus
- Workers remain on campus for extended periods, typically one month
- No-one enters or leaves the plant without an on-the-spot negative test
- Anyone testing positive on attempted entry is sent to a quarantine center
This is obviously tough on workers, who are unable to see their families and friends for weeks at a time.
Three factors behind the worker revolt
Although closed-loop production is challenging at the best of times, Quanta appears to have implemented even tougher conditions, by restricting access between production areas and dormitories.
Workers who were on a break between shifts were reportedly denied permission to return to their dormitories to rest. Quanta seemingly required them to instead remain within the production area of the facility. The reason for this isn’t yet known.
Frustration at this additional restriction was said to be behind workers breaking through barriers and fighting with guards. However, while this does appear to be the main reason, Business Insider reports that two additional factors were at play.
First, fear of infection. Workers who test positive when attempting to enter the campus are sent to a quarantine center until they test negative. A group of these workers was due to return to work, and some of those within the plant were said to be mistrustful of the screening process for release from quarantine.
Some said that they were concerned about getting infected by workers who returned from quarantine centers, according to told Taiwanese news outlets USTV and UDN.
Second, some were afraid that any outbreak of infection within the plant would result in a total lockdown, with nobody allowed to exit even if they were at the end of their scheduled time there. That could leave them unable to be at home with their families even on their time off.
Disruptions to MacBook Pro production
While conditions for workers are top-of-mind, there is also growing concern over disruptions to MacBook Pro production. As we noted last week:
Economic Daily says that Quanta’s plant is only operating at around 30% capacity due to the disruption, and doesn’t expect to achieve better than 50% even when things calm down.
This is likely to further lengthen delays for MacBook Pro orders, which has already gone on for many months. Just yesterday, we noted that some readers have been emailed by Apple to be told of delays to orders placed back in February. Some have been told that their machines won’t ship until July, some five months after the orders were placed.
Any increase to this delay could see customers waiting half a year for their MacBook Pro models to arrive.
Business Insider says that Quanta’s Shanghai plant is responsible for around 20% of worldwide MacBook Pro production, and that this was initially operating with just 2,000 employees against the 40,000 usually employed there. While it was aiming for 50% within a few weeks, this incident – and growing levels of infection within the city – now make the target appear ambitious.
Photo: Mufid Majnun/Unsplash
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