Apple’s statement and 4 developments in the violence at Wistron Corp in Karnataka

The Kolar plant was vandalised by employees and workers on Saturday allegedly over delay in payment of salary and overtime wages.
Workers vandalising Wistron plant
Workers vandalising Wistron plant
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Visuals from Wistron Corp’s manufacturing unit in Kolar on Saturday showed employees and workers vandalising the plant allegedly over delay in the payment of salary and overtime wages. A day after the violence, police personnel continued to be deployed at the plant, which is located in Narasapura Industrial Area in Kolar district.

The plant, run by Taiwan-based company Wistron, manufactures iPhones. It also manufactures IT products for Lenovo and Microsoft, among others. Over 130 people were detained by the police following the incident during which the workers hurled stones, broke glass windows and doors, and overturned and set fire to vehicles.

Here’s everything you need to know:

1. Workers are protesting allegedly over unpaid salaries. A Times of India report states that workers were not being paid what was promised to them at the time of joining, and that salaries being paid to employees have been reducing. Some workers also alleged that they haven’t been paid for four months.

2. Wistron’s administrative officer TD Prashanth in his complaint to the police said the company estimated the damage to be Rs 437 crore. Things that the complaint alleges were destroyed include four cars, two golf cars, the canteen area, TVs, laptops, printers, phones, production machines, construction site containers, water purifiers, an ATM machine, personnel documents, cash and more.

An FIR has been filed under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code: 143 (punishment for member of unlawful assembly),147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting), 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 448 (Punishment for house-trespass), 435 (Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage of Rs 100), 395 (Punishment for dacoity), 427 (Mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) and 149 (Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object).

3. In the FIR, Prashanth alleged that contract workers went on a rampage around 6 pm on December 12. There was sloganeering, and the workers entered into one of the blocks, vandalised iron lockers with rods and destroyed company property.

The FIR says that after ransacking offices, they moved to the area where phones belonging to employees and other valuables were looted, and electronics were destroyed.

“Then they started pulling out employee details and started destroying those documents as well. When the security guard tried to stop them, they abused him and also assaulted him and made a threat to his life,” the FIR reads.

It adds that security checkpoints were destroyed, and the police could also not disperse the crowd. It alleges that security personnel, including women employees, were assaulted.

Apart from employee belongings, computers, printers, CCTVs and hundreds of smartphones that were getting ready for production were allegedly damaged.

4. Apple, too, is probing if Wistron violated its supplier guidelines, according to the Economic Times. Apple’s supplier guidelines reportedly mandate that third-party staffing agencies pay workers on time and as per rules and provide them other benefits.

"Apple is dedicated to ensuring everyone in our supply chain is treated with dignity and respect. We have teams on the ground and immediately launched a detailed investigation at Wistron’s Narasapura facility in India. We are also dispatching additional Apple team members and auditors to the facility. Our teams are in close touch with the local authorities and we’re offering our full support to their investigation,” an Apple spokesperson said.

5. Politically, however, Karnataka is concerned about how the state will be viewed as an investment destination. Political parties in the state have sought a thorough probe into the violence. Condemning the violence, the state government has already assured necessary action.

Noting that the incident has been reported by several national and international news agencies, senior Congress leader VR Sudarshan said it was not a good development while trying to attract investment and job creation in the state. Congress MLA and former IT Minister Priyank Kharge said the vandalism incident was not good for the image of the state. "Investments and job creating opportunities are dropping due to corona and in these trying times Govt needs to get its act together in protecting labour and industries interests," Kharge said.

Minister for Major and Medium Industries Jagadish Shettar had on Saturday said the state government would give necessary protection to Wistron. Stating that the government will take stringent measures to prevent such unpleasant events from recurring, he said it was committed to the business, the workers and the people at large. "The incident at the Winstron plant is unfortunate and unacceptable. The government is committed to conducting a full and fair investigation into the incident and punishing the wrongdoers," he added.

The incident occurred a day after a high-level Taiwanese delegation led by Ben Wang, Director General, Taipei Economic and Cultural Center, on Friday told Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa that several of their companies were keen to engage with the government to further discuss their investment plans in the state.

With PTI inputs

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