Vivo India Pvt. Ltd hit the headlines as a case of “labour unrest” following clashes in the factory premises at Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh on July 25, 2017. As always, the monopoly capitalist controlled media distorted the events. The workers of Vivo were blamed for bringing a “bad name” for India and creating problems for the “Make in India” initiative of the ruling bourgeois class.
Vivo is a Chinese smartphone manufacturer that entered the Indian market in December 2015 under the ‘Make in India’ initiative and was also the sponsor of the Indian Premier League 2017. The case of Vivo India Pvt. Ltd. is a glaring example of the inhuman work conditions that characterize the government’s claim of generating employment by bringing in multinational capitalist companies to manufacture in India under its much-publicised “Make in India” initiative.
Investigations carried out by a PUDR team have revealed that the management of Vivo India Pvt. Ltd has been following a policy of cruel exploitation and harassment of workers. It has ruthlessly implemented the policy of “hire and fire”. The workers are denied their statutory rights, including weekly off. The workers of the company have been repeatedly demanding resolution of their grievances. The management has arrogantly refused to heed the voice of the workers.
The Company currently has over 6000 workers, all employed on a contractual basis. These workers are skilled ITI graduates. The work at the Unit is assembly of smart phones with components imported from China. At the end of the IPL season in May 2017 the company had around 24000 contractual workers, who have been gradually thrown out over a period of the past two months without prior notice.
The working conditions are extremely oppressive. They are forced to work all 30 days of the month without any leave. Their take home wages, after PF and ESI deductions, are a mere Rs. 7100 per month. For absence of a single day of work, Rs. 2000 is deducted from the salary. The workers get half an hour of lunch break and 10 minutes of tea break. Apart from these breaks, if a worker leaves the assembly line even for going to the washroom, he is penalized. The workers have to maintain a target of assembling 160 phones per hour, failing which their services may be terminated. The PF amount can be claimed by a worker only after 6 months of service but the Company follows a practice of not retaining a worker for more than 5 months. As a result, most of the workers who have been thrown out in the past few months have not received their PF claims. They regularly face harassment and verbal abuse by the supervisors and are in constant threat of losing their jobs.
The land for the company was acquired from Jaganpur village with the promise to the villagers of providing jobs to the youth of the village. But hardly any youth of the village are employed in the factory. The majority of the workers hired are from far-off places, so that it is more difficult for them to get together and fight for their rights and form a union. They have to pay rents as high as Rs. 2200 for living quarters in the nearby villages and find it very hard to make both ends meet. Many workers travel very long distances to get to work.
In the backdrop of these conditions, following yet another fresh round of retrenchment of workers, on July 25, 2017 the workers went on agitation. The workers were accused of causing damage to property on the company premises and attacking the management. They were beaten up by the police and the goons of the contractor and management. 30-35 workers were arrested and FIRs have been filed by the management against hundreds of workers on various charges ranging from unlawful assembly, rioting, theft, being armed with deadly weapon, etc. Following the July 25 incident, the harassment and exploitation of the workers has intensified.
Smart phone manufacturers have come in large numbers to manufacture in India, hoping to utilize various concessions given under the Make in India initiative, such as reduction of tax on locally manufactured handsets to 2 per cent, compared to 12.5 per cent duty on imported completely-built handsets. The huge potential market in India also offers them good opportunity to rake in enormous profits. In the last one year alone, more than 37 mobile manufacturers have set up units in India, including one of the biggest telecom companies of China, Huawei. Brands such as Xiaomi, Gionee, LeEco, Oppo, Vivo, Meizu, OnePlus, and Coolpad have either set up plants in India, or announced their intention to do so. However, as the case of Vivo shows, workers in these units are compelled to suffer the most barbaric form of wage-slavery and are completely deprived of all rights, in the service of the interests of the big capitalist global manufacturers.