People leave the Wistron site, a Taiwanese-run iPhone factory in Narsapura, about 60km from Bangalore, on December 13, 2020. Photo: AFP

Apple contract manufacturer Wistron has resumed production at its factory near Bangalore, which has been closed since December after labor unrest.

Thousands of workers at the Wistron factory – in Kolar district near Bangalore – went on a rampage on December 12 over lapses in payment of salaries and overtime. The damage done to the plant was estimated to be worth about 500 million rupees (US$6.87 million).

After getting all the requisite clearances, the plant started functioning on March 8. Karnataka state industries minister Jagdish Shettar visited the plant on Wednesday and spoke with the workers. He appealed to them to shun violence and avoid a repeat of what happened on December 12.

“If any problem arises in the future, bring the matter to the notice of the district authorities and authorities concerned,” he said. The minister observed that the three-month closure of the factory had endangered the future of many employees.

After the violence, Apple said it would not provide new business contracts to Wistron globally until the Taiwanese manufacturer completed all corrective actions at the facility. Wistron sacked vice-president Vincent Lee, who oversaw the business in India, as it admitted to lapses in payments at the facility.

The Karnataka state authorities too had accused the Taiwanese firm of not adhering to labor laws. In its report after a plant inspection, it stated that the plant became operational last year and though it was permitted to have an employee strength of 5,000, it scaled it up to 10,500 without fulfilling many legal requirements.

The report blamed the six staffing firms that had supplied manpower to Wistron for the salary payment glitches. The government also accused Wistron of introducing 12-hour shifts in October without getting any necessary clearances from the factories department.

In February, Apple said everyone at the facility would undergo a new training program to ensure they understood their rights and how they can raise any concerns. According to Wistron, all employees have been fully paid and it has implemented new hiring and payroll systems to ensure everyone is paid correctly and provided with the correct documentation going forward.

Wistron is one of the largest suppliers of iPhones in the world and manufactures iPhone 7 and the new iPhone SE models in India. As part of the Indian government’s production-linked incentive scheme to attract large investments in mobile phone manufacturing, Wistron had committed to investing roughly 13 billion rupees ($176.74 million) in smartphone manufacturing over the next five years.