Will This Worker Riot Hurt Apple and Foxconn?

Foxconn, Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) China-based main supplier, has had to close one of its manufacturing factories after a violent riot broke out on Monday and lasted for several hours. While many details about the reasons for the riot are not known, it apparently began as a dormitory brawl around 11 p.m. at the factory in Taiyuan in China’s Shanxi province.

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An employee contacted by Reuters said the plant was among those that assemble and make parts for Apple’s iPhone 5. The incident is the latest in a spate of worker protests at various plants run by Foxconn, which is the world’s largest contract maker of electronic goods but has lately faced repeated accusations of poor conditions and worker mistreatment.

According to report in The Wall Street Journal, between several hundred and several thousand employees were involved in the riot, while other estimates put the figure at 2,000. About 40 workers are said to have been hospitalized. About 5,000 police officers were brought in and crowds were eventually dispersed around 9 a.m. The WSJ, which managed to get in touch with workers at the factory through a microblogging service, said windows were smashed and motorcycles were torched by the rioters.

Foxconn runs about 20 manufacturing facilities in China. This particular facility employs about 79,000 workers.

“Clearly there is deep-seated frustration and anger among the employees and no outlet, apart from violence, for that frustration to be released,” Geoff Crothall of the China Labor Bulletin, a labor rights group in Hong Kong, said in a statement. “There is no dialogue and no means of resolving disputes, no matter how minor. So it is not surprising when such disputes escalate into violence.”

Louis Woo, a spokesman for Foxconn, said the situation was “under control,” but added that the plant would be closed on Monday. “Our decision is to take a day off for that particular plant today,” Woo said.

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