‘Riot’ at factory owned by company that makes iPhone parts

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HONG KONG (CNNMoney) — A large-scale incident involving some 2,000 Foxconn Technology Group factory workers has forced the closure of one of the tech supplier’s plants in China, the company confirmed Monday.

The company described the incident as a “personal dispute between several employees” that escalated to include thousands of people. Some 40 people were taken to the hospital, and “a number” of individuals were arrested. According to the statement from Foxconn, local police were in control of the situation by 3 a.m., some four hours after the dispute began.

The incident, which a worker at the scene described as a “riot,” took place in Taiyuan, a city in central China. Foxconn employs 79,000 workers at the facility. Production at the plant has been halted, but Foxconn said in a second statement that the factory will resume activity on Tuesday.

Foxconn, which supplies parts to Apple and other manufacturers, has drawn harsh criticism for its labor policies. A spate of suicides at the company’s factories in 2010 garnered media coverage of alleged harsh working conditions, including unsafe facilities and illegal amounts of overtime.

It was not immediately clear Monday whether Apple products are being produced in Taiyuan. According to Foxconn, automobile electronic components, consumer electronic components and precision moldings are manufactured at the facility. Apple did not immediately respond to a inquiry early on Monday.

Contacted by CNN, a worker at the plant said that shops in the factory area were smashed by rioters, and local police arrested more than 20 workers in an effort to contain the crowds.

The worker, who requested anonymity, said that the factory is now closed, and police are patrolling the area in 10-man groups.

In March, a report on working conditions Foxconn documented dozens of major labor-rights violations, including excessive overtime, unpaid wages and salaries that aren’t enough to cover basic living expenses. Prepared by auditors from the Fair Labor Association, the report surveyed 35,500 employees at those factories about their working and living conditions, including their compensation and working hours.

The FLA’s report said that Foxconn has agreed to work with the group to remedy many of the violations it recorded. In one key move, Foxconn said it will achieve “full legal compliance” with Chinese work-hour laws by July 1, 2013. To do that, Foxconn will need to hire “tens of thousands” of extra workers to offset its current employees’ workload, the FLA said.

The FLA said a June 20 to July 6 audit showed that “immediate health and safety measures” have been made, such as enforcement of breaks, changing equipment design to reduce repetitive stress injuries and testing of emergency equipment like eyewashes and sprinklers.

— CNN’s Dayu Zhang contributed to this report.

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