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Worker unrest is on the rise at the Shanghai factory of a major supplier for Apple gadgets, with protests at times turning violent in response to draconian “COVID zero” lockdowns.

Workers at the Quanta Computer plant — which makes Apple’s MacBook laptops — have been under strict lockdown for nearly two months with limited supplies as the Chinese government takes drastic measures to keep production online despite a recent COVID-19 case surge.

But the fed-up employees – most of whom are low-wage earners – have reportedly started to revolt against the measures. The unrest has included violent confrontations involving hundreds of workers and the factory’s guards, as well as incidents in which employees have bypassed barriers to seek out basic supplies.

Tensions ran so high last weekend that a group of workers stormed a housing facility to confront Quanta’s Taiwanese managers. The incident led to a lengthy standoff as the workers demanded better pay and an end to the lockdown.

Shanghai lockdown
Renewed COVID-19 lockdowns in China were implemented in April.

Bloomberg reported on rising unrest at the plant, citing conversations with people familiar with the matter. The Quanta Computer facility manufacturers Apple MacBook laptops.

“People are getting frustrated and tired of these controls,” one worker at the locked-down facility told Bloomberg. “That’s inevitable, especially when there is no timeline on when all this will end.”

The Apple supplier’s factory is one of many facilities that have adopted a “closed loop” system in which employees work, eat and sleep on site or in nearby “bubbles.”  Workers are barred from seeing other people, including their own family members. 

Quanta logo
Quanta’s Shanghai plant makes Apple Macbooks.
AFP via Getty Images

According to Bloomberg, typical housing conditions for workers at the Shanghai plant include packing 12 workers in bunk beds per dorm room. One worker told the outlet that employees earn a salary of around 3,000 yuan, or $450, per month.

Representatives for Apple did not immediately return a request for comment. Quanta Computer declined Bloomberg’s request for comment.

Shanghai police
Lockdown measures have sparked fears of more supply chain disruptions.
AFP via Getty Images

Earlier this month, viral footage showed the outbreak of a riot at the same factory, as factory workers bypassed security barriers and fought with guards clad in hazmat suits.

At the time, Taiwanese newspaper UDN reported that workers had been abruptly banned form returning to their dorms during off-duty hours because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Shanghai lockdown
China has enacted strict lockdown measures in Shanghai during a COVID-19 case surge.

Renewed COVID-19 lockdowns in China have placed additional strain on global supply chains that were already reeling from months of pandemic-related disruptions.

Last month, Apple warned that supply shortages and COVID-19 lockdowns could hurt its quarterly revenue by up to $8 billion.


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