‘Missing’ contractors key to solving mystery of Wistron iPhone plant attack, police begin hunt

Karnataka labour minister says govt also probing allegations that contractors siphoned off salaries of workers. Police say trying to trace contractors and those involved in violence.

A police vehicle stands outside the Wistron factory in Narasapura, Kolar | Photo: Rohini Swamy | ThePrint
A police vehicle stands outside the Wistron factory in Narasapura, Kolar | Photo: Rohini Swamy | ThePrint

Bengaluru: The Karnataka labour department has initiated an inquiry into the violence at Taiwanese tech giant Wistron’s plant in Kolar last week and also into allegations that contractors siphoned off money from the workers’ salaries.

Police sources said a couple of the contractors have gone missing and they’ve launched a search to trace them. 

State Labour Minister Shivaram Hebbar told ThePrint five contractors had not paid some of the workers for the last three months, and this was one of the main reasons for the violence.

“Some of the complaints were that they were made to work for 8-12 hours with just a 50-minute break,” he said.

Six contractors were responsible for recruiting contractual workers for the company that makes iPhones in India. According to Wistron, the company has 1,343 permanent employees and 8,490 contractual workers.

Hebbar said that a report has been submitted to the labour ministry by the department of factories, boilers, industrial safety and health, alleging non-payment of wages to the contractual workers, and it needs to be probed.

Labour Commissioner Akram Pasha told ThePrint: “We are in the process of examining if there has been any violation of the labour laws and payment of wages. There are complaints of long working hours, we are looking into that as well.”

The extensive damage to the iPhone maker’s facility has forced the state and central governments to take steps to restore the confidence of investors at a time when the ‘Make In India’ campaign has been gaining momentum. 

Also read: Will ensure justice for Wistron, says top industry body after Karnataka iPhone plant violence

Anger has been simmering among employees for long

Some contractual workers ThePrint spoke to said that the contractors had siphoned off a large share of their salaries. A contractual worker alleged that he was paid only Rs 12,000, but was promised a salary of Rs 18,000.

They also said their salaries were delayed and that they were also not paid their overtime wages. The workers allegedly had unexplained wage cuts and were even made to work in 12-hour shifts, with less than an hour break. A few workers also said anger among the employees had been simmering for some time now.

ThePrint tried to reach two of the six contractors for a comment on the allegations against them, but their phones remained switched off. 

Meanwhile, Kolar Police said they are still rounding up those who have been involved in the violence, following which they will begin investigating the contractors and their roles in the wage-related issues.

“We are trying to get in touch and trace the contractors named by some of those who alleged that they have been cheated of their salaries. Our priority is to identify all the perpetrators through the CCTV footage that we have and then continue with the investigation,” said a police officer, involved in the investigation.

Seemanth Kumar Singh, Inspector General (IG) of Police, Central Range, told ThePrint they have so far arrested 164 people, who have been involved in the violence. 

“Contractors and all those involved will be questioned. Right now, we are arresting those involved in the violence,” he said. 

Wistron claims Rs 41 crore worth damages in fresh FIR

Wistron, meanwhile, filed a fresh FIR Monday, claiming that they incurred damages worth Rs 41.25 crore, and not Rs 437 crore mentioned in the initial FIR.

“We have taken their complaint once again. As of now, we have recovered close to 50 electronic devices that have gone missing. We will arrest the very last man involved in this violence,” said IG Singh. 

The senior police officer also denied the detention of SFI president of Kolar taluk, Srikanth, in connection with the violence as has been claimed by the BJP and ABVP.

Also read: Probe into violence at Wistron iPhone plant on, Centre involved too, Karnataka minister says