A fact-finding report on the labour violation in a Noida-based Chinese phone manufacturing unit highlights a case of illegal mass termination of contract workers. It is an indictment of the 2015 ‘Make in India’ drive of this government.
The People’s Union for Democratic Rights has published this report.
Around 180 workers were thrown out of their jobs without any prior notice on 29th November 2018 in Hipad Technology India Private Limited situated in Noida, making phones for Chinese companies Oppo and Xiaomi. Hipad was established in August 2016.
The workers, ITI and polytechnic graduates, are hired for an unspecified period through a contractor, with an expiry date of 11 months from the day of hiring. Many times, they are ousted much before the stipulated period, which was the case with the 29th November layoff. Although the hiring is done on a scale of Rs.12000 per month, no one is given more than Rs. 9200 per month. This does not explain why Rs. 1840 is deducted every month when 8 percent of PF deduction amounts to only Rs. 960. The working hours are 9 per day. Up until Diwali, the company had mandated 3 hours of overtime (OT) each day. This time, around Diwali the workers were offered ridiculously small sums of Rs. 400 to Rs. 500 as bonus when the usual practice is that of giving a month’s salary as Diwali bonus.
Workers had complained of delayed salaries and unexplained salary cuts earlier this year. There was a strike on 17th April against delayed salaries. After Diwali in the beginning of November 2018 however, the production hit a low due to reduced demand and the management resorted to layoff. Over 50 workers had been laid off in the first three weeks of November. On 29th November, the company resorted to mass termination which resulted in protests by the workers and police action against them.
The workers were barred entry into the factory and were given false assurance that they would be shifted to another plant and should temporarily go on leave. However, in such contractual jobs, it is a known fact that there is no leave and not being on duty implies termination. Around 180 workers were laid off, there were mass protests and around 1200 workers had gathered to put pressure on the management. When the management did not budge, there was some incidents of pelting stones, in which no one was hurt.
FIRs have been registered on two occasions against a dozen workers under various Sections of the IPC for rioting with deadly weapon, causing hurt, endangering life and safety of others, etc. The police action against the workers has reduced the situation into a law and order problem where the workers are being penalized for resisting their rights violation. An atmosphere of terror still surrounds the company palpably and it was very difficult to talk to the employees of Hipad.
Today, India has become the second largest manufacturer of mobile phones, after China. India’s attractiveness to manufacturers is growing due to availability of low-cost labour as well as a huge domestic market.
The workers of Hipad are fighting against their unjust termination, and also in support of the demand for immediate withdrawal of the FIR against them. Those in work are demanding that hiring should be under a written contract with the workers where the company should be recognized as the principal employer and wage rates should be revised according to the statutory laws.