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iPhone factory workers riot over unpaid wages in India

This is not the way to win more work from China, say some politicians as Samsung signs up to enlarge OLED plant

Workers at one of Apple’s three iPhone assembly plant rioted on Saturday evening over unpaid wages.

Local media reported that around 2,000 staff protested at not having been properly paid for months, and that iPhones may have been looted and the factory damaged.

The factory only opened in August 2020 and is thought to assemble the iPhone SE and iPhone 12, mostly for export consumption as Apple’s highly-priced products have tiny market share in India.

Apple outsources Indian iPhone assembly to Taiwanese company Wistron, which in turn outsourced recruitment and payroll to Indian companies. The India companies stand accused of not paying staff promptly or properly for several months. Wistron’s plant is near the city of Bengaluru, a tech hub in which the cost of living is high by Indian standards.

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Over 100 arrests have reportedly been made.

Some Indian politicians are sympathetic with under-paid workers, but also condemned violence.

Others have pointed out that India is currently offering substantial subsidies to attract facilities just like smartphone assembly plants, so riots and destruction aren’t exactly the best argument for further inbound investments.

Others suggest that Wistron and Apple simply picked the wrong location to run the plant.

One suggested destination The Register encountered was Noida, the manufacturing hub to the East of New Delhi that already houses the world’s largest smartphone-making plant. The Samsung facility can crank out 120 million units a year at top speed

Samsung also operates a mobile OLED factory in Noida and the state government of Uttar Pradesh last week agreed to subsidise expansion of that plant. The deal appears to be contingent on Samsung closing a plant in China and moving its workload to Noida.

The deal is therefore very welcome in India, given that it is currently beefing with China over borders, security, apps, and trade. ®

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