Workers at an iPhone production plant in India reportedly smashed windows and set fire to vehicles to protest reductions in pay, the Times of India reported. The incidents began Saturday at a facility run by Taiwan manufacturing company Wistron Corporation, where the iPhone SE is assembled. According to The Indian Express, during a shift change workers who said they had seen their pay reduced damaged the offices, some furniture, and factory equipment before things escalated outside. A local official told the Express that police were investigating the incident. The deputy commissioner said the company had decided to suspend operations for a few days in light of Saturday’s violence.
A majority of the nearly 2,000 employees, who were exiting the facility after completing their night-shift, went on a rampage destroying the company’s furniture, assembly units and even attempted to set fire to vehicles. Senior police officers along with additional personnel from Kolar district rushed to the spot.
In the videos that were shot by a few fellow employees during the arson, those leading the mobs were seen breaking glass panes and doors, turning cars topsy-turvy, and attacking the offices of senior executives.
Meanwhile, the police department said that employees working in this plant were angry that the company was not paying the amount that was promised to them at the time of joining.
“While an engineering graduate was promised Rs 21,000 per month, his/her salary had reduced to Rs 16,000 after the prolonged lockdown and subsequently citing the pandemic as the reason it was slashed to Rs 12,000 further in the recent months. While non-engineering graduates’ monthly salary was reduced to around Rs 8,000 from around Rs 15,000. The salary amount being credited to their accounts had been reducing and this seem to have triggered the unrest at least our prima facie investigations suggest that,” the police said.
Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Dr. C Ashwathnarayan, who also handles the IT and Biotechnology portfolios, tweeted that it is imperative nobody takes the law into their own hands. “There are appropriate forums to resolve such issues without indulging in this wanton violence,” he said, condemning the violence.
He said strict action would be taken against the “errant elements” but also promised that all workers’ rights will be “duly protected” and their dues cleared.
Apple began assembling iPhones in India in 2017, where it tops the premium smartphone market. However, it only has about a 1 percent share of the total smartphone market in the country, since the iPhone’s price tag puts it out of reach for many Indian consumers. India was the second-biggest smartphone market in the world in 2019, ahead of the US and second only to China. Wistron opened the plant near Bengaluru earlier this year, part of a multimillion-dollar investment by the company in India.
Wistron had received 43 acres at Narasapura industrial area from the state government after it proposed to invest around Rs 2,900 crore and give employment to over 10,000 people. The Narasapura facility is being used to manufacture Apple’s smartphone iPhone SE, Internet of Things (IoT) products, and biotech devices. Apple and Wistron did not immediately reply to requests for comment.