‘There is no one to hear our woes’

Phone factory workers allege harassment; Industries Minister assures protection to firm

Published - December 15, 2020 06:09 pm IST - Bengaluru

Police lathi charge workers at an iPhone manufacturing plant in Narasapura on Saturday after they ransacked the premises over delay in the payment of salaries; (below) damaged property.

Police lathi charge workers at an iPhone manufacturing plant in Narasapura on Saturday after they ransacked the premises over delay in the payment of salaries; (below) damaged property.

The police investigating the violence at the iPhone manufacturing plant at Narasapura industrial area, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, say it was a “well-coordinated and executed attack” led by a group of contract workers.

Early Saturday morning, thousands of workers from Wistron Infocomm Manufacturing (India), which is part of the Taipei-based Wistron Corporation manufacturing iPhones, ransacked the plant.

Employees alleged that they had not been paid their salaries or overtime wages for three to four months. “There is no one to hear our woes. In addition to non-payment of salaries, we are also facing wage cut issues. There is so much harassment at work. Even after working all the days in the month, most of us are seeing loss of pay because the attendance system is corrupt. They call us for overtime, but at the end of work they say it is a compensation off. When we apply for it, HR never sanctions it,” claimed an employee who did not want to be named.

More than 36 employees that The Hindu spoke to had similar stories to tell alleging lack of pay, long shifts, and an unhealthy and toxic work environment. Wistron refused to comment on these allegations.

Sathyanand, secretary of All-India Trade Union Congress, Bengaluru, said the industrial violence at Wistron was the direct result of the “brutal exploitation” of workers and the sweatshop-like conditions created by the company while manufacturing the most expensive mobile phones.

“The State government has allowed the company to flout the basic rights of the workers such as payment of wages and working hours. In the absence of any regulation, anarchy has prevailed, and both the management and the State government should be held accountable. Harassment of workers by police should be stopped immediately and corrective measures to ensure regulation of working conditions should be undertaken,” he said.

Regarding workers’ complaints of not getting their salaries, senior police officials said they have brought it to the attention of the Labour Department.

However, in a statement to the media, Minister for Large and Medium Industries Jagadish Shettar said that the government will give necessary protection to the Taiwanese company in Kolar. “The State government has taken steps to develop industries in the State and is committed to the protection of the workers’ right. The problem could have been resolved if it had been adequately addressed as per law,” he said.

Ten teams formed

“Ten special teams have been formed to investigate the incident. We are screening CCTV footage and video clips to identify the instigators,” said a senior police officer.

“Though the factory premises have been considerably damaged, there has been no case of people sustaining major injuries. Adequate security has been deployed and the situation is under control,” the police official said.

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