Winstron Crisis: An Explainer on Industrial Exploitation By Apple’s Key Manufacturer

Questionable ethical practices have been commonplace in the Indian marketplace for as long as businesses have existed. 12th December was one such day when Wistron Corp’s Narasapura facility near Bengaluru was ransacked by employees over allegations of non-payment of wages and exploitive working conditions.

In accordance with Government of India’s Make in India campaign, Apple’s key manufacturer Wistron invested close to ₹ 3,000 Crores in establishing production unit in Kolar for the manufacture of iPhone 7 and iPhone SE devices. This was supported by the government which incentivised the move by offering 40+ acres of land and other remunerations. This did create jobs for the local community, but was it entirely ethical?

According to a report by the Times of India wistron promised engineering graduates a monthly salary of ₹ 21,000 which got cut down to ₹ 16,000 and finally settled on ₹ 12,000. Conditions however only worsened further for non-engineering graduates who saw wages drop to a mere ₹ 8,000 all the while employees were forced to work overtime, as they were mandated to be put in 12-hour shifts instead of the regular 8-hour shifts. To add insult to injury, more than 90% of these employees were contract workers and thus hired via staffing agencies which put a damper on grievance redressal and no change came despite pleas for the same.

The issue reached a melting point on 12th of December as disgruntled employees laid siege to the Wistron building. This paints a particularly bad picture for Apple as a larger enabler of such practices. Apple has previously been reprimanded for working with suppliers who won’t hesitate to conform to morally reprihensible practices in a bid to meet their bottomline. Apple has since put its contract with Winstron on probation for violation of their supplier code of conduct. Apple requires its suppliers to operate within the bounds of local legal provisions and Winstron has been in stark violation of these very principles. Winstron has claimed wage deficits on software glitch and sacked the vice president in charge of India operations.