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Foxconn India's shuttered plant near Chennai, India, December 21 2021. Picture: SUDARSHAN VARADHAN/REUTERS
Foxconn India's shuttered plant near Chennai, India, December 21 2021. Picture: SUDARSHAN VARADHAN/REUTERS

Chennai — Apple supplier Foxconn’s plant near Chennai in southern India will remain shut this week after protests sparked by a food poisoning incident, government sources said.

The factory looked deserted on Tuesday, with a few cars including a police vehicle parked outside. No workers were seen at the site, which was manned by two guards and a few other security officials.

Foxconn and Apple were not available for comment.

The disruption comes as Apple, like other consumer products companies, is dealing with supply chain bottlenecks that have hit production. In October, the company warned that the effect of these supply chain problems would worsen during the holiday quarter.

“The factory has been shut since Saturday and will be shut until Sunday,” said a senior official at the directorate of industrial safety and health in Tamil Nadu, of which Chennai is the capital. Two more senior state officials confirmed the suspension of activities at the factory.

All three declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Police in India on Monday released dozens of those detained for blocking a key highway after the food poisoning incident last week at the plant that led to 150 employees being admitted to hospital.

The plant makes iPhone 12 models, and local media reported on Tuesday that Apple has started trial production of its flagship iPhone 13 at the factory recently.

The decision to suspend activities at the plant is the management’s, said a police officer from the office of the superintendent of police in Kancheepuram, a district in Tamil Nadu.

Employees at the plant who complained of food poisoning and other problems in recent months have been asked to register their problems with the state labour ministry, the officer said.

Production impact

“The impact on Apple is expected to be low as it is a lean period … until at least February,” said Navkendar Singh, India research director at market research firm IDC.

“In [the first half of 2022] we expect sales to pick up from new product launches and much-needed easing of supply chain issues.”

The factory also makes Amazon Fire TV sticks and some Xiaomi devices.

The unrest at Foxconn is the second such involving an Apple supplier factory in India in a year.

In December 2020, thousands of contract workers at a factory owned by Wistron destroyed equipment and vehicles over the alleged nonpayment of wages, causing damages estimated at $60m.

Cupertino, California-headquartered Apple has bet big on India since it began iPhone assembly in the country in 2017.

Foxconn, Wistron and another supplier, Pegatron, have together committed about $900m over five years to make iPhones in India.

Apple is also planning to bring the assembly of its iPad tablets to India, which is among countries including Mexico and Vietnam that are becoming important to contract manufacturers supplying American brands as they try to reduce their reliance on China amid rising Sino-US tensions.

Most of Foxconn’s workers in India are women.

Reuters

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