Riot breaks out at a Wistron iPhone factory in India (video) — updated

Windows broken, cars overturned, equipment destroyed near Bengaluru after contract workers didn’t get paid what they say they were promised.

My take: Not a great start for Apple’s foray into Indian assembly and manufacture. I was going to make a ignorant remark about Indian factory workers being less compliant than their Chinese counterparts, but Google reminds me that there was a riot in 2012 over working and living conditions at a Foxconn iPhone factory in Northern China.

UPDATE: More detail from the Times of India:

Though Wistron is yet to comment on the violence, sources told The Times of India that the employee unrest was triggered by salary remittances made to them. Sources said the employees 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 and, subsequently, to Rs 12,000 in the recent months… On Friday night, the employees started discussing about their salaries on their floors and some alleged that they had received only low as as Rs 500 in their bank accounts. The anger turned into violence by the time the shift ended, the employee added.

16 Comments

  1. Jerry Doyle said:
    It is difficult to ever approve such form of behavior viewed in this video. It does, though, send a very clear message to whomever is responsible that you need to get your act together and take corrective action to establish appropriate communication between management and employees. Either management misled purposely employees or management did an extremely poor job communicating with their workers. What is very sad here is Apple is caught-up in this debacle.

    Apple should be livid (I know I am) and I am sure Apple will hold whoever is accountable. These explicit scenes leave indelible impressions on the minds of viewers, and companies wonder why Unions exist. This would not have occurred if a Union existed. Within the industrialized nations, Unions have been the most powerful force in building social protections, not just for their own members, but for all society.

    6
    December 12, 2020
  2. Fred Stein said:
    From Deccan Herald, “The issue has been festering for about 8 to 10 weeks, during which employees were subject to arbitrary changes to their work contracts. About 90 per cent of the 8,000-strong workforce are contractual workers with a promised salary of Rs 16,000 per month for an 8-hour work shift. But over the last few months many were being paid only Rs 12,000 and were also told to work for up to 12 hours a day,”

    8 to 10 weeks?

    5
    December 12, 2020
  3. David Drinkwater said:
    As those of you who follow my comments well may recall, I tried to make a shipment from Nanjing, China, to Bangalore, India, and encountered logistical difficulties due to political tensions between the two countries.

    I hope (well, based on further research, presume that) my colleagues in Bangalore/Bengaluru are safe.

    There is no link in the article, PED, so it is hard to follow up or comment on content.

    It’s not an iPhone factory, it’s a Wistron factory.

    Also “near” Bangalore is 50 miles away, so it’s a bit of a hike.

    2
    December 12, 2020
  4. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. I was going to make a ignorant remark about Indian factory workers being less compliant than their Chinese counterparts, …”.

    PED, this is not about workers being compliant. This is about management fulfilling its fiduciary responsibility with its workers and once that fiduciary responsibility is fulfilled, ensuring that all workers no matter their color, no matter their race, no matter their ethnicity, no matter their sex, creed, sexual orientation, disability status all are treated in a “fair & equitable” manner in doing their jobs.

    2
    December 12, 2020
  5. Jerry Doyle said:
    I trust Apple senior management over Asia operations will go into the Wistron’s Apple plant meeting with the CEO doing a complete assessment of everything related with Apple work sending an explicit message that if this happens ever again we are terminating our business with you.

    India is so very crucial to Apple’s future. India is even more important than what China was to Apple. Apple still is in its embryonic stages of developing its India operations and we need to get it right with India’s good citizens.

    India has the same size population as China and India has the youngest population on the planet. India has been an extremely hard nut to crack and just when Apple is making progress in India, Wistron prostituted the worker values Apple cherishes. This debacle sets us back.

    7
    December 12, 2020
  6. Ralph McDarmont said:
    I don’t know if this is a matter of poor communication or egregious exploitation. But I do know that violently trashing your workplace is unlikely to get you a raise or another day of work. I hope Apple repairs and guides this situation. As an investor I need India’s workforce and their interest in purchasing Apple’s products. Very rough start, Tim.

    2
    December 12, 2020
  7. Gregg Thurman said:
    Correcting this situation is easy: Management heads must roll.

    5
    December 12, 2020
    • Jerry Doyle said:
      @Gregg Thurman: I agree fully. Sabih Khan is Apple’s senior vice president of Operations reporting to COO Jeff Williams. Mr. Khan is in charge of Apple’s global supply chain, ensuring product quality and overseeing planning, procurement, manufacturing, logistics and product fulfillment functions, as well as Apple’s supplier responsibility programs that “protect” (emphasis added) and educate workers at production facilities around the world. 

      I trust that Mr. Khan and a team assessment of auditors already are on-site in India interviewing appropriate Wistron’s executives, including affected contract workers. Make things right!

      3
      December 12, 2020
  8. Aaron Belich said:
    Interesting how this is at odds with the other related reports of Apple manufacturing efforts within India, either earlier this year, or was it late last year? The prior take was more aligned with bringing Indian women into the workforce, and more Apple centric.

    This sets all parties back… too much greed. Management / government heads must roll.

    3
    December 12, 2020
  9. Tommo_UK said:
    Meanwhile Tim Cook. Is making speech on climate change for the UN while the factories are on fire due to workers rights and payment issues. Having gone through the same problems with Chinese manufacturers you’d have thought they’d have covered every base with Wistron.

    Not impressed.

    Tim, you’re the logistics genius behind Apple’s success. This should have been on your radar. Spectacular own goal in an otherwise fantastic series of launches and strategic decisions which are a core part of reducing dependency on China. Not impressed.

    3
    December 12, 2020
  10. Joe Murphy said:
    Tommo_UK I enjoyed your post and have questions for you and our group.

    @ “…Cook …making speech …while the factories are on fire due to workers rights and payment issues. Having gone through the same problems …you’d have thought they’d have covered every base with Wistron. Not impressed.”

    Sounds like you’re a hard one to impress. Nothing wrong with that. My experience tells me one can cover every base and still have fires to put out. Then it’s all about recovery. What do you think?

    @ “Tim, you’re the logistics genius … This should have been on your radar. … in an otherwise fantastic series of launches and strategic decisions…. Not impressed.”

    With Cook’s track record, I expect it was on his radar. Even in the best of times there’s a difference between catching every missile on the radar and managing damage control..

    Will you please expand, including from current position, is it possible to recover and impress? If so, what does that look like?

    2
    December 13, 2020
  11. Joe Murphy said:
    T Cook says, “So you can be a great amplifier of misinformation, of violence, of a lot of different things out there.” In his Outside Magazine interview. We have seen examples of this in riots here in America, as initial reports were found to be misinformation.

    The Times of India update reports “…the employees started discussing about their salaries on their floors and some alleged that they had received only low as as Rs 500 in their bank accounts. The anger turned into violence by the time the shift ended…” reminds us it’s prudent to wait for the official report before we jump to conclusions, declaring heads will roll.

    Let’s wait for the smoke to clear and reports clarify exactly what happened, who was responsible and what was actually behind this? What steps are put in place to remedy the situation.

    0
    December 13, 2020
  12. Bart Yee said:
    .My take is that although Apple products are being made in this factory, it has been established and run by Wistron, an Apple contract assembler. Wistron is a Taiwanese based ODM (original design manufacturer) like Foxconn and Pegatron. Wistron was formerly the manufacturing arm of Acer before being spun off in 2000. Besides assembling for Apple, they offer design and manufacture of products for many other different companies in electronics, TV, and smartphones. Like many other Taiwan and Chinese ODMs, they actually design and build units and private label them for others to sell under their brand, in fact, brands like Samsung, Oppo, Xiaomi contract with ODMs to provide their lower priced models at lower overall costs compared to designing and manufacturing in house.

    Wistron is also partnered with an Indian company, Optiemus, in India to provide smartphones of their own design.
    Continued

    0
    December 13, 2020
    • Bart Yee said:
      It is not surprising to me that Wistron (and others) moved to India to 1) take advantage of Indian local
      Manufacturing incentives (at Apple’s request), 2) exploit plentiful cheaper less expensive labor compared with China now, and 3) push the cheating cheapness employer envelope with so much cheap labor available (don’t like it (wages, working conditions, contract, hours), fine, we’ve got hundreds to take your place). And despite India being a functioning Democracy, there is quite a history of discrimination, caste, poverty, corruption at local, state, and governmental levels, all ripe for corruptive and corrosive business practices, IMO. Wistron may be trying to see what it can get away with, perhaps by bad internal players locally, or maybe from a corporate level? IMO.

      Is this characteristic of Asian factory management? IMO, yes, has been for a long time until recognition and regulation (and outside big customers like Apple) forced them to comply better with governmental oversight, contract agreements with employees, and pressure from big customers who care (Apple). Are their other big customers who don’t care? IMO, yes. When did you ever hear of these employee or work disputes at Wistron or other ODMs in relation to the brands they supply? Everyone else sweeps it under the rug or ignores it in the name of lowest priced contracts. No wonder cheap Android units exist to fill out brand product portfolios.
      Continued .

      1
      December 13, 2020
    • Bart Yee said:
      Is it llmited to Asian firms? Heck no, happens in all countries with almost all manufacturing concerns, see many US companies in particular when it comes to paying low wages, avoiding providing health care or financial planning benefits, or even screwing employees out the door when shutting down, lack of warning, severance, and of course, pension funding. Not to mention the environmental havoc left behind for municipalities, states, and even the Feds to handle. IMO, been happening since the Robber Baron days.

      0
      December 13, 2020
  13. Jerry Doyle said:
    @Bart Yee: “…. And despite India being a functioning Democracy, there is quite a history of discrimination, caste, poverty, corruption at local, state, and governmental levels, all ripe for corruptive and corrosive business practices, IMO. Wistron may be trying to see what it can get away with, perhaps by bad internal players locally, or maybe from a corporate level?”

    Well stated Bart Yee. This is exactly the core of the problem and it is what I felt in my comments written on this subject. Apple executives will nip this issue in the bud quickly. I immediately saw, as you did, what was happening.

    1
    December 14, 2020

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