iPhone 5 supply threatened by Foxconn strikes

FOXCONN workers went on strike over the weekend at one of the Chinese factories supplying Apple’s iPhone 5, in a blow to the US firm as it struggles to keep up with demand for the device.

More than 200 workers at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant refused to work on Friday, in the latest round of unrest to hit the company, although the Taiwanese firm denied earlier reports from US advocacy group China Labor Watch that thousands of workers had gone on strike.

The Zhengzou factory in northern China is one of two Foxconn plants to supply the iPhone 5, which has become the most in-demand handset in history. Customers are seeing a four-week delay on online orders and shortages in Apple stores.

The workers are believed to have striked over working conditions at the plant, as well as demands that they work during China’s week-long national holiday, as Foxconn faces increasing pressure to deliver new shipments of the iPhone 5.

The company has also tightened quality standards after complaints that the phone’s paint was easily chipped. “The instruction to strengthen quality inspections for the iPhone 5 was given by Apple following multiple complaints from customers,” a Foxconn spokesperson said, while insisting that orders remained on schedule.

Foxconn, which supplies Apple products as well as Amazon’s Kindle and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles, has been affected by repeated strikes and violence at its Chinese factories in recent months despite efforts to improve working conditions and pay. A different factory in the city of Taiyuan saw thousands of workers rioting just two weeks ago.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook paid a visit to the Zhengzhou plant in March as part of an inspection into the firm’s practices.

Apple is expected to reveal a new, smaller iPad “mini” next week, and Foxconn is understood to be handling the majority of orders, another burden that could stretch the company. The device, which will feature a 7.85 inch screen compared with the iPad’s 9.7 inches, is expected to be unveiled in California next Wednesday.