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Wistron Factory violence: AICCTU blames State and management for exploitation

Compulsory 12-hour shifts, delay and non-payment of wages, no grievance redressal mechanism, night shifts for women are just some instances that pushed helpless workers to a point of desperation

Sabrangindia 18 Dec 2020

Image Courtesy:enca.com

The All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) has submitted a report to the Chief Minister and Labour Minister of Karnataka over the labour law violations by Wistron Narasapura Industrial Estate, suggesting measures to be taken by the state to ensure industrial peace.

The report also indicts the factory management for terrible working conditions elucidating the plight of the workers for the past few months. On December 12, thousands of workers protested at Wistron factory raising several demands, which ended in properties of the factory being destroyed and police action against the workers. Wistron, a multinational corporation from Taiwan, has its establishment at Narasapura Industrial Estate, Karnataka where iPhones are assembled for Apple Inc.

When AICCTU visited the factory site on December 14, they stated that the entire area was inaccessible to the public and the police refused to allow anyone near the factory. It states that the workers, especially those from the nearby villages in Kolar district are from extremely poor backgrounds and a large number of them belong to the Dalit community. During appointment, they were informed that they would receive wages of rupees twenty-two thousand per month including overtime wages.

But the working conditions have been rather horrific. Workers in the factory that operated in 2 shifts from 6 AM to 6 PM; and 6PM to 6AM), were compelled to do 12- hour shifts every day/night and could not opt for the shift they’d like. Women were made to work the night shift and for every four days of work, the workers were provided two days off. There was no grievance redressal mechanism for workers, who got up at 4 AM everyday for a 6AM shift and never reached home before 8PM.

Despite being promised rupees twenty thousand, the report mentions that they received substantially less wages even after having worked overtime on all days without leave. They have not received their wages for November. The vandalism of the factory was a result of months of pent-up frustration and angst over not having received their dues from the HR and other Wistron officials.

The report has requested the police to investigate and inquire into a particularly disturbing video in the public domain that shows workers being made to lie down on the ground on the stomachs and being beaten by the police. Reportedly 150 workers have been arrested but no the family members have not been provided with any details.

“The response of the State Government has been one of outright condemnation of the destruction of property and little sympathy for the plight of the workers. The events of December 12, 2020 are an act of desperation on the part of the workers, who are exploited and unorganised, with no avenue of grievance redressal”, the report states.  

Violations

Section 5 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 mandates that the wages of every worker employed shall be paid before the expiry of the 10th of every month in case of industrial establishments with over 1,000 workers but the Wistron factory workers have not been paid on time. Minimum wages, which is mandatory under the Minimum Wages Act and extra wages or overtime (more than 9 hours a day) under the Factories Act (section 59) are some labour protections that were not offered to the poor workers. This essentially constitutes forced labour which is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court in People’s Union for Democratic vs Union Of India & Others (AIR 1982 SC 1473), has held that: “Where a person provides labour or services to another for remuneration which is less than the minimum wage, the labour or service provided by him clearly falls within the scope and ambit of the words “forced labour” under Article 23. Such a person would be entitled to come to the court for enforcement of his fundamental right under Article 23 by asking the court to direct payment of the minimum wage to him so that the labour or service provided by him ceases to be ‘forced labour’ and the breach of Article 23 is remedied.”

Section 51 of the Factories Act, 1948 provides that performance of overtime work cannot be made compulsory but the workers were forced into 12-hour work shifts. Rule 23 of the Karnataka Minimum Wages Rules, 1958 and Rules 7 and 9 of the Karnataka Payment of Wages Rules, 1963 mandate that work hours, wage periods, rate of wage and date of payment of wages for two months in advance should be displayed. However, neither were such details put up, nor did the State take steps to inspect the said factory, thus leaving the workers completely in the lurch.

The Industrial Dispute Act (section 43) provides for a Works Committee to promote measures for securing and preserving amity and good relations between the employer and workmen. Further, Section 9C mandates that every industrial establishment employing 20 or more workmen shall have one or more Grievance Redressal Committee, consisting of equal number of members from the employer and the workmen, for the resolution of disputes. But the workers have been deprived of that too.

Above all, the management compulsorily engaged women to work in night shifts for 12 hours without complying with proper transportation facility from residence accompanied by security guards in vehicles with CCTV cameras, hygienic working conditions, medical facilities, sufficient rest rooms, canteens, etc.

Suggestions

AICCTU has informed the Government that an establishment employing more than 10,000 workers that does not have a workers Union is alarming. The presence of a union helps in strict compliance with laws and harmony between the employers and employees. The right to organize and collectivize is protected under Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution and in order to ensure that it is given complete meaning, it is necessary that the Labour Department take necessary steps to inform workers of these rights which have certainly not been implemented yet.

Section 9 of the Factories Act empowers the inspectors to inspect any factory within his jurisdiction. Similarly, section 14 of the Payment of Wages Act and Section 19 of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 lays down the same powers, putting a positive obligation and duty on the Labour department to ensure regular monitoring. In the given situation, they have been advised to immediately inquire and take necessary actions.

It is also very apparent that Wistron has seriously violated the statutory codes and laws set out and hence a thorough investigation into their unfair labour practices must be looked at.

The Union has appealed to the Karnataka Government to contextualise the plight of the arrested workers in light of them being engaged in extremely exploitative sweat-shop like working conditions in gross violation of labour laws including the most basic right to earn wages of workers who are already poor. They have asked for the release of the detained workers and ensure that their families are informed as mandated under Article 22 of the Constitution.

The entire report may be read here: 

Related:

Labour laws and rights in peril in India?
Dilution of labour rights & protection condemnable: Trade Unions

Wistron Factory violence: AICCTU blames State and management for exploitation

Compulsory 12-hour shifts, delay and non-payment of wages, no grievance redressal mechanism, night shifts for women are just some instances that pushed helpless workers to a point of desperation

Image Courtesy:enca.com

The All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) has submitted a report to the Chief Minister and Labour Minister of Karnataka over the labour law violations by Wistron Narasapura Industrial Estate, suggesting measures to be taken by the state to ensure industrial peace.

The report also indicts the factory management for terrible working conditions elucidating the plight of the workers for the past few months. On December 12, thousands of workers protested at Wistron factory raising several demands, which ended in properties of the factory being destroyed and police action against the workers. Wistron, a multinational corporation from Taiwan, has its establishment at Narasapura Industrial Estate, Karnataka where iPhones are assembled for Apple Inc.

When AICCTU visited the factory site on December 14, they stated that the entire area was inaccessible to the public and the police refused to allow anyone near the factory. It states that the workers, especially those from the nearby villages in Kolar district are from extremely poor backgrounds and a large number of them belong to the Dalit community. During appointment, they were informed that they would receive wages of rupees twenty-two thousand per month including overtime wages.

But the working conditions have been rather horrific. Workers in the factory that operated in 2 shifts from 6 AM to 6 PM; and 6PM to 6AM), were compelled to do 12- hour shifts every day/night and could not opt for the shift they’d like. Women were made to work the night shift and for every four days of work, the workers were provided two days off. There was no grievance redressal mechanism for workers, who got up at 4 AM everyday for a 6AM shift and never reached home before 8PM.

Despite being promised rupees twenty thousand, the report mentions that they received substantially less wages even after having worked overtime on all days without leave. They have not received their wages for November. The vandalism of the factory was a result of months of pent-up frustration and angst over not having received their dues from the HR and other Wistron officials.

The report has requested the police to investigate and inquire into a particularly disturbing video in the public domain that shows workers being made to lie down on the ground on the stomachs and being beaten by the police. Reportedly 150 workers have been arrested but no the family members have not been provided with any details.

“The response of the State Government has been one of outright condemnation of the destruction of property and little sympathy for the plight of the workers. The events of December 12, 2020 are an act of desperation on the part of the workers, who are exploited and unorganised, with no avenue of grievance redressal”, the report states.  

Violations

Section 5 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 mandates that the wages of every worker employed shall be paid before the expiry of the 10th of every month in case of industrial establishments with over 1,000 workers but the Wistron factory workers have not been paid on time. Minimum wages, which is mandatory under the Minimum Wages Act and extra wages or overtime (more than 9 hours a day) under the Factories Act (section 59) are some labour protections that were not offered to the poor workers. This essentially constitutes forced labour which is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court in People’s Union for Democratic vs Union Of India & Others (AIR 1982 SC 1473), has held that: “Where a person provides labour or services to another for remuneration which is less than the minimum wage, the labour or service provided by him clearly falls within the scope and ambit of the words “forced labour” under Article 23. Such a person would be entitled to come to the court for enforcement of his fundamental right under Article 23 by asking the court to direct payment of the minimum wage to him so that the labour or service provided by him ceases to be ‘forced labour’ and the breach of Article 23 is remedied.”

Section 51 of the Factories Act, 1948 provides that performance of overtime work cannot be made compulsory but the workers were forced into 12-hour work shifts. Rule 23 of the Karnataka Minimum Wages Rules, 1958 and Rules 7 and 9 of the Karnataka Payment of Wages Rules, 1963 mandate that work hours, wage periods, rate of wage and date of payment of wages for two months in advance should be displayed. However, neither were such details put up, nor did the State take steps to inspect the said factory, thus leaving the workers completely in the lurch.

The Industrial Dispute Act (section 43) provides for a Works Committee to promote measures for securing and preserving amity and good relations between the employer and workmen. Further, Section 9C mandates that every industrial establishment employing 20 or more workmen shall have one or more Grievance Redressal Committee, consisting of equal number of members from the employer and the workmen, for the resolution of disputes. But the workers have been deprived of that too.

Above all, the management compulsorily engaged women to work in night shifts for 12 hours without complying with proper transportation facility from residence accompanied by security guards in vehicles with CCTV cameras, hygienic working conditions, medical facilities, sufficient rest rooms, canteens, etc.

Suggestions

AICCTU has informed the Government that an establishment employing more than 10,000 workers that does not have a workers Union is alarming. The presence of a union helps in strict compliance with laws and harmony between the employers and employees. The right to organize and collectivize is protected under Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution and in order to ensure that it is given complete meaning, it is necessary that the Labour Department take necessary steps to inform workers of these rights which have certainly not been implemented yet.

Section 9 of the Factories Act empowers the inspectors to inspect any factory within his jurisdiction. Similarly, section 14 of the Payment of Wages Act and Section 19 of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 lays down the same powers, putting a positive obligation and duty on the Labour department to ensure regular monitoring. In the given situation, they have been advised to immediately inquire and take necessary actions.

It is also very apparent that Wistron has seriously violated the statutory codes and laws set out and hence a thorough investigation into their unfair labour practices must be looked at.

The Union has appealed to the Karnataka Government to contextualise the plight of the arrested workers in light of them being engaged in extremely exploitative sweat-shop like working conditions in gross violation of labour laws including the most basic right to earn wages of workers who are already poor. They have asked for the release of the detained workers and ensure that their families are informed as mandated under Article 22 of the Constitution.

The entire report may be read here: 

Related:

Labour laws and rights in peril in India?
Dilution of labour rights & protection condemnable: Trade Unions

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