After I published my blog ‘The Anatomy of Wistron Workers’ Violence’. I received this document. It is the report submitted to The Chief Minister of Karnataka and others by All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) ON 14th December 2020. AICCTU visited Narasapura Industrial Estate (Kolar Dist) to meet with the workers. I am publishing relevant extracts with the permission of Mr. Clifton D’Rosario who is a practicing advocate and the National Secretary of AICCTU. I gratefully acknowledge and thank AICCTU and Mr. Clifton D’Rosario for giving me the permission to publish on my blog. (I would like to clarify that I do not owe allegiance to any political party).
And I have also quoted the Labour Minister of Karnataka in the last section. His statements are shocking and unbelievable.
Here are the excerpts:
AICCTU visited Narasapura Industrial Estate (Kolar Dist) to meet with the workers. The factory site has been cordoned off by a large contingent of police and is inaccessible to the public and the police refuse to allow anyone near the factory. However, the general public in the vicinity were very forthcoming about the said incident. We were able to visit several villages and meet with workers employed at Wistron.
- Wistron employs 1343 regular/ permanent and 8490 contract workers supposedly from six contractors. The workers are Engineering graduates, ITI Diploma holders and PUC/10th Std pass.
- Contract workers consist of three broad categories: (a) Migrant labour from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar etc., (b) Migrant workers from other districts of Karnataka, and (c) workers from various villages in taluks around Narasapura. It is said that there are also workers who come from who come from Hoskote and Bengaluru to work at the factory.
- One common feature of the contract workers is that they are all young.
- At the time when they applied for jobs these contract workers were interviewed by officials of Wistron. Having passed the interviews the contract workers are allocated to one of the six contractors, who issue an ‘Appointment Order’ stating that they are being appointed by the said contractor and would be “required in various clients’ locations”, though the only place they work in is Wistron. The contractor plays no part other than issuing the ‘Appointment Order’ and effecting payments of wages. In fact, their appointment letters clearly state that all the job instruction will be given by the factory supervisors. Clearly, these contractors are merely name-lenders and the contract system is an unfair labour practice engaged in by Wistron to deny the workers their rights as regular/ permanent workers.
- The workforce is extremely young. It is said that all job applications by persons above 26 years are summarily rejected by the Wistron Officials.
- The workers, especially those from the nearby villages are from extremely poor backgrounds and a large number of them belong to the Dalit community. They have taken up employment at Wistron on account of colleges being closed and their families facing economic crisis, and are working with the sole purpose of alleviating the financial condition of their families. At the time of their appointment, they were informed that they would receive wages of Rs 22,000/- pm including overtime wages. This is the sole reason these youth have accepted work at Wistron factory.
- The Wistron establishment operates only 2 shifts – 6 am to 6 pm (day shift) and 6 pm to 6 am (night shift). The work is of assembling iPhones and each set of workers is allocated one part of assembly line. For reaching the factory workers get up at 4 am and after work they reach their homes at 8 pm.
- The conditions of work are horrific. Each worker is compelled to do a 12 hour shift every day/ night and has no say on which shift they can opt for. Women are made to work in the night shift as well. For every four days of work, the workers are provided 2 days off. There is no avenue for redressal of grievances of workers. The irregular, erratic and reduced payment of wages is an issue that was raised repeatedly and yet remains unaddressed. While the workers were promised monthly wages of Rs 22,000/-, they have received substantially less wages despite having worked overtime on all days without leave. Wages for the month of November are yet to be paid to the workers despite their numerous requests. One issue that the workers have raised is fudging of their attendance leading to them getting lesser wages. The other obvious aspect is the non-payment of due overtime wages as mandated under law and that the salaries being credited to their accounts is reducing every month. Despite being unorganized, workers have aired their grievances with the company officials on numerous occasions but to no avail. Apparently, the Kolar Deputy Commissioner was also approached earlier, resulting in the Deputy Commissioner writing to Wistron about compulsory 12-hour working shifts, however, none of the workers have a copy of the said communication.
- On 12.12.2020 workers yet again sought for their wages from HR and other Wistron officials but they were turned away. This appears to have happened between the night and day shifts. Clearly things got out of hand and some persons began damaging the Company’s property. Some of the workers said that there were some outsiders who came into the factory and resorted to breaking things.
(The report then mentions various statutory provisions which are violated which I have not reproduced here.)
Shivaram Hebbar, Karnataka’s Minister of Labour Department, has insisted that the labour authorities were not apprised of problems related to wages at the Wistron facility of Apple Inc where violence broke out on the previous Saturday.
“We did not receive a single letter/notice or even a complaint about a phone call about salary payment issues at Wistron. This behaviour without even trying to contact the labour department is unpardonable. We are here to listen to their grievances. There is a grievance redressal mechanism in place,” Hebbar was quoted by Economic Times.
He added, “As labour minister, I am here to protect the rights of labourers. But, I cannot tolerate this kind of unruly behaviour. This sends a wrong message to the investors that Karnataka is not a safe destination for businesses. Incidents like this will not help add jobs. This incident has affected the lives of 10,000 families that were dependent on Wistron.” (Quoted from Swarajyamag.com)
You decide whom to believe!
Vivek S Patwardhan
Feature Pic courtesy Richard Lee on Unsplash
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