Initial probe on Wistron India violence finds ‘labour violations’


A preliminary investigation by an Indian labour office has found that Apple supplier Wistron has violated several labour laws that resulted to a violent riot by its angry workers last week.

Workers complaining about the non-payment of wages for months smashed the company’s equipment with rods, while CCTV cameras, fans and lights were torn down.

Footage shared on social media showed men, many wearing masks due to the coronavirus outbreak, destroying security cameras, windows and other equipment while a car was set on fire.

The Taiwanese company said that the Saturday riot at the plant, about 50 km from the tech hub of Bengaluru, cost the company millions of dollars in damage and forced it to shut the site.

An audit of the factory, hours after the rampage, found “several labour law violations”, the labour department in Karnataka state’s Kolar district, where the factory is located, said in its report.

Both Apple Inc and Wistron, one of its top global contract manufacturers, did not respond to a request for comment on the report, which has not been made public.

Apple is conducting its own audit to find whether Wistron violated supplier guidelines.

The labour office said Wistron did not maintain proper employment and appointment details of their workers and staffs who worked in 12-hour shifts at the Kolar plant were not paid for overtime.

The company did not keep up salary and attendance records as required by law, and contract staffs were unhappy about non-payment of wages for extra work hours, the office said, adding that Wistron failed to submit these records on demand.

The report also named three of Wistron’s manpower providers – Creative Engineers, Quess Corp and Addeco India – for exceeding hiring quotas permitted under government rules.

The inspection also found that a glitch in an attendance machine or software had led to worker complaints of not getting full wages owed to them.

“This was brought to the notice of the management, and this was not addressed,” the office said.

The investigation, though initial, confirmed the grievances of workers at the plant, half a dozen of whom were interviewed by Reuters.

The Karnataka state government said this week it would help Wistron re-start operations and address workers’ concerns.

It also did not comment on the findings of the report.

Trade unions though have criticized the state for “going soft” on the company and failing to empathize with staff who worked in “sweatshop-like conditions”.

The episode is a blow to Wistron’s local manufacturing push and dents Apple’s reputation in a key growth market. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)