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Is labour unrest boiling again in Karnataka?

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BM Editorial

14-Dec-2020

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Karnataka has witnessed several incidents of labour unrest in recent weeks. Over 3,500 workers at the automobile manufacturer Toyota Kirloskar Motors have been on strike since November 10.

Karnataka has witnessed several incidents of labour unrest in recent weeks. Over 3,500 workers at the automobile manufacturer Toyota Kirloskar Motors have been on strike since November 10. The factory at Bidadi, around 40 km from Bengaluru, has been locked out, with the striking workers – who are protesting their bigger workload since November 9 after the company decided to step up manufacturing to meet increased demand – camping outside.

On Friday, nearly 1 lakh workers of Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation went on a snap strike, bringing 20,000 buses to a halt and crippling the state’s inter-district transport system.

KSRTC workers are demanding payments on par with other government employees. Talks between the government and workers unions failed on Saturday. With the strike looking set to continue, the government has proposed introducing private buses on Sunday.

The strike at Toyota kirloskar, which began after the management suspended one employee for indiscipline, has now resulted in the suspension of 60 employees in 30 days. The management is firm that they all should face inquiry for breaking the company’s code of discipline. The management, however, is on record that independent presiding officers will hold the inquiry, and the suspended employees will get subsistence allowance during their period of suspension.

  Workers on Saturday morning went on a violent rampage at a facility manufacturing Apple iPhones at Wistron Infocomm Manufacturing India Pvt Ltd’s 43-acre plant in the Narasapura area of Kolar district about 60 km from Bengaluru, causing extensive damage to the premises compelling the management to suspend the work for few days.

 Around 125 persons have been arrested. There is no union or union leader in the firm, police said.

 According to media reports While an engineering graduate was promised Rs 21,000 per month, his salary had reduced to Rs 16,000 and, then to Rs 12,000. Diploma holders were promised Rs 11,000 and were getting around Rs 5,000. There was no consistency with regard to the date on which salaries were getting credited into bank accounts as claimed by employees.

The Taiwan-headquartered technical service provider company opened the Kolar plant last year with an initial investment of Rs 680 crore. It operates as a service centre and manufacturing centre for products including iPhone, and employs around 3,000 workers. The company is looking to invest nearly Rs 3,000 crore more to expand the facility, and aims to provide employment to 9,467 local people when the second phase of the plant is complete.

Like the other contract manufacturers of Apple, Wistron is also involved in production of its flagship iPhones. The factory in Narasapura is the  new unit from where it had started assembly of the iPhone SE (2020).The original iPhone SE was the first iPhone to be made in India and now there are four models being produced here, including the iPhone 11. The plant is spread over 43 acres, and was built with an investment of Rs 3,000 crore. This is a new unit, which was opened in July this year.The other unit in Bengaluru is in the Peenya locality of the city’s outskirts, from where Wistron has been producing iPhone SE models since 2017.

The Narasapura unit employs about 2,000 regular employees and some contractual employees, while the old Peenya unit employs about 3,500 people. The flagship iPhones produced at the Narasapura and Peenya unit are also exported to other countries across the world.

Apple started investigation in the incident of violence by contract workers and reasons behind it till then Wistron is likely to remain closed till investigation is completed.

Seen as an exercise of damage control on 19th Dec.20, Wistron management, a Taiwan based manufacturing company  doing assembly  of apple I phones in Narasapura, near bagalaore, has removed its vice president , who was responsible for business operations. It has also been said by Apple that  wistron will not be given any new business till they put make all compliances.

 “Since the unfortunate events at our Narasapura facility we have been investigating and have found that some workers were not paid correctly, or on time. We deeply regret this and apologize to all of our workers,” said a statement from Wistron on Saturday.

In the statement, Wistron acknowledged that it had made mistakes as it expanded the then-new facility. “Some of the processes we put in place to manage labour agencies and payments need to be strengthened and upgraded.  We are taking immediate action to correct this,  including disciplinary action,” the statement said. It added: “We are also enhancing our processes and restructuring our teams to ensure these issues cannot happen again.”