On the 12th of this month there was a Labour unrest in the i-phone assembly Factory owned by Wistron in Karnataka. The Company says property worth Rs.50 Crore was damaged and based on their complaint, many workers were sent to Jail. According to media reports the Company employees about 2000 permanent workers and 7000 Contract workers. The company has not allowed any Trade Union to come up there. According to the workers monthly wages are not being paid regularly and some time only part wages are paid and there is a clear violation of all labour laws. Women workers are asked to work in night shift without providing adequate safety. The Central and State Government instead of booking the company for violation of the Law of the land, only condemned the so called “Violence”. The State Government and Central Government are only worried about the company and its Foreign Direct Investment. They wanted to satisfy only the Multi National Company and the Investors, and not worried about the harassment, human right violation and other violation are taking place in this company.
The pressure from different corners forced the Karnataka Government to conduct an Inquiry and the State Labour Department inspection reports has found out many serious lapses and violations of the Provisions of Labour Laws. The Labour Department report points to a number of violations of the Provisions of Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act 1970, Minimum wages Act 1948, Equal Wages Act 1976 and the Industrial Employment (Standing orders) Act 1946. While the Company has got a Licensed capacity of manpower of 5000, it has increased to 10,500 in a short span of time. Without even informing the Labour Department, the working hours of the Factory has been increased from 8 hrs. to 12 hrs. in a shift. Even huge buildings are being constructed inside the complex without any permission. Even the statutorily required Safety officers, Welfare officers and Medical officers stipulated under the Factories Act 1948 are not found complied. Workers with lower qualification and higher qualification are being paid a fixed salary of Rs.15000/-. The workers are hired through 6 contractors.
The Central Trade Union AITUC has demanded for a joint investigation consisting of Labour Department officials and Trade Union representatives. All these forced the Company to sack its Vice President for the lapses. The parent company Apple Corporation has issued a statement condemning the violations of all the labour laws by the Wistron Company. The COVID-19 pandemic has been used by the Private Corporates and the Government for mutilating all the Labour Laws.
The Modi Government in violation of the ILO Conventions, has passed 4 Labour Codes by merging more than 44 Labour Laws and converting them in to codes without holding any consultations with the Trade Unions. Even in the Parliament no discussion has taken place on these labour law amendments. The Government recently convened a meeting only to complete its formality with Employers and Trade Unions to discuss about the draft rules made on Labour Codes. While the Employers’ Organisation attended the meeting, the Central Trade Unions including AITUC, HMS, CITU & others boycotted the meeting. In a letter to the Labour Minister, the Trade Unions stated that no fruitful purpose is going to serve in such type of ritual and virtual meetings. The Central Trade Unions have further stated that this exercise of consultation was been undertaken by the Government only to meet the criticism that the present Government is violating tripartite consultations. The Central Trade Unions have also decided to onceagain approach the International Labour Orgaisation against the violation of tripartite consultation process.
As expected the Confederation of Indian Industry has welcomed all the 4 Labour Codes, since it has met their requirements of exploiting the workers and getting more production with less wages and facilities.
It is most unfortunate that the present day Government is only worried about the interest of the Capitalists and the investors. The Government is least bothered about the working class. The workers who produce all wealth deserves a reasonable treatment, as they live in a civilized and democratic society. The incidents which has happened in the Wistron company should become an eye opener for the Government and it should address the problems of the workers in a humanitarian manner, then only it will be successful in its efforts to bring investments in the country. Boosting domestic production and making the economy self reliant will be successful in a country only if its human resources are treated properly and their legitimate requirements and grievances are taken care of.
Views expressed here are those of C. Srikumar, General Secretary, All India Defence Employees Federation and National Executive Committee Member of AITUC and who attended the Centenary Celebrations of ILO at Geneva during the year 2019