Violence at Wistron Corp’s iPhone Manufacturing Plant at Bengaluru

December 17, 2020

An iPhone manufacturing plant run by Taiwan-based tech giant Wistron Corporation at Narsapura (around 60 km from Bengaluru in Karnataka) came under attack on Saturday from its employees over payment of salaries.  A majority of the nearly 2,000 employees, who were exiting the facility after completing their night shift, went on a rampage destroying the company’s furniture and assembly units, and even attempting to set fire to vehicles.  The Times of India reported that the employee unrest was triggered by salary remittances made to them.  Employees were angry that the company was not paying the amount that was promised to them at the time of joining.  “While an engineering graduate was promised Rs 21,000 per month, his/her salary had reduced to Rs 16,000 and, subsequently, to Rs 12,000 in the recent months.  Non-engineering graduates’ monthly salary had reduced to Rs 8,000,” an employee alleged.  Read the full story here.
 
HRPI View: On discussion with Augistine, an LR expert from IBM who has been tracking this story closely, the following emerged:
  • Wistron does not have a recognized union, therefore workers didn't have a channel to air their grievances, and non-payment of wages during the pandemic exacerbated the issue further. 

  • Employee unrest was left to simmer for a while by management, who did not take clear actions to address it.  Contractor resources were not paid by the vendor despite Wistron paying the vendor. 

  • Labor law compliance to audit the vendor proved ineffective.  Despite Wistron paying the vendor, the department of Labor has come down heavily on the management and vendor to clear dues immediately.  Due to a lack of due diligence on the vendors compliance on Payment of Wages Act and related labor laws, the onus of payment will fall on Wistron, being the principal employer.  

  • Police have arrested many employees based on the CCTV camera footage.  They will be booked for arson and looting.  At this point, TUs may step in to defend.

  • Theories abound that the whole episode was instigated by outsiders, who took away or damaged stocks worth millions of dollars.  We will await the official report. 
Employee sentiment, especially in the manufacturing sector, is low, and employee engagement needs to pick up.  The uncertainty faced by the industries and its impact on employees’ insecurities fuels such outbreaks.  Listen to the employee voice, socialize grievance redressal channels, and maintain strong labor law compliance.