Workers at Wistron’s iPhone factory near Bengaluru go on a rampage

Employees attack premises alleging that they have not been paid salary and overtime wages for three or four months.

Updated - December 14, 2020 10:45 am IST

Published - December 12, 2020 08:13 pm IST - Bengaluru

Workers ransack the iPhone manufacturing plant of Wistron Corporation near Bengaluru on December 12, 2020.

Workers ransack the iPhone manufacturing plant of Wistron Corporation near Bengaluru on December 12, 2020.

Thousands of workers at Wistron Infocomm Manufacturing (India), which is part of the Taipei-based Wistron Corporation and which makes iPhones for Apple at its Narasapura factory on the outskirts of Bengaluru, went on a rampage and ransacked the company premises over delays in payment of salary and overtime wages. A source said the protest began shortly after their shift ended, but took a violent turn by 6 a.m. on Saturday.

The workers alleged that they have not been paid salary or overtime wages for three or four months.

Things came to a head on Saturday after the violence erupted and company property, including furniture, fans, lights, and television sets, were ransacked. The workers set fire to a car parked on the factory premises.

Also read: Bengaluru iPhone factory violence | Wistron assesses damage at ₹437 crore

A contingent of police personnel was deployed on the premises and an additional force was called in to contain the situation. About 100 people have been detained, said Seemanth Kumar Singh, Inspector-General of Police (Central range), who is supervising the law and order situation.

The company has around 15,000 employees, but only 1,400 of them are actually on the rolls. The rest are contract workers placed through five staffing firms. “The situation was tense but has been brought under control. 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.

Initially, the company operated three shifts of eight hours each, but currently, it has only two shifts of 12 hours each. That means every employee is forced to work four hours of overtime every day. Salaries and OT wages have been pending in the last three or four months. According to the employees, most of them are paid in the range of ₹13,000 to ₹15,000.

When contacted, Sudipto Gupta, managing director of Wistron, said, “We have no comments at the moment.”'

Meanwhile, an employee said, “There is no one to hear our woes. In addition to non-payment of salary, we are also facing wage cut issues. 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 OT, but at the end of work they say it is a compensation off. When we apply for it, HR never sanctions it.”

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, we have brought it to the attention of the Labour Department. Though the factory premises have been considerably damaged, there have been no cases of people sustaining major injuries. Adequate security has been deployed and the situation is under control,” said the IGP.

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