A Foxconn source told Reuters on Friday that more than 20,000 workers, the majority of whom were new hires who had not yet started working on production lines, had left the massive Foxconn plant in China.
The departures will make it more difficult for Foxconn to meet its goal of starting full production again by the end of November following the occasionally violent unrest, the source said.
Concerns are increasing over Apple's ability to deliver products for the crucial holiday time as the worker unrest lingers at the Zhengzhou facility, which makes the company's popular iPhone 14 models.
The departures from the world's largest iPhone manufacturer are a further blow to the Taiwanese company, which has been dealing with tight COVID-19 regulations that have fueled worker anger and hampered production ahead of Christmas and the Lunar New Year vacation in January.
Apple, which announced on Thursday that it had employees at the factory, declined to comment on Friday.
Employees in China have protested about sharing dorms with coworkers who tested positive for COVID, in a rare instance of open criticism. Workers allege they were misled about compensatory payments at the facility, which produces 70% of the world's iPhones.
Videos shared on Chinese social media on Friday showed throngs and extended lines of workers waiting for buses while carrying a lot of stuff.
Foxconn on Thursday offered protesting recruits 10,000 yuan ($1,400) in exchange for their resignation and departure from the factory.
In response to employee complaints that a pay-related "technical error" during hiring contributed to protests involving physical altercations with security officials, the company issued an apology.
Although they did not specify how many new hires had departed the site, another Foxconn source with knowledge of the situation claimed that some had.
The new workers still needed to complete training sessions before beginning work online, this source claimed, thus the departures had no effect on current productivity.
"The incident has a big impact on our public image but little on our (current) capacity. Our current capacity is not affected," the source said.
The disturbance at the Foxconn plant comes as China records a record number of COVID infections and deals with growing lockdowns, which have fueled civilian dissatisfaction across the country. It has also revealed communication issues and mistrust of Foxconn management among some employees.
Foxconn launched a hiring drive this month, promising incentives and increased pay after being forced to implement COVID restrictions in October. Because of the constraints, the corporation was compelled to isolate many of its employees, causing others to flee.