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Respect workers’ rights at the Foxconn plant in Chennai, India

29 October 2010

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International Metalworkers’ Federation

Union leaders and workers remain in jail in Foxconn dispute in India

IMF calls for the release of imprisoned trade union leaders and workers, withdrawal of fabricated criminal cases and is writing to Foxconn and Nokia CEO’s calling on them to respect workers’ rights at a Foxconn plant located in a Special Economic Zone in Chennai, India.

INDIA: Twelve Foxconn workers and union leaders remain in prison on October 13 in Chennai, India after hundreds of workers striking the plant were arrested on October 9.

The International Metalworkers’ Federation is writing to Foxconn and Nokia global management demanding they intervene and ensure workers’ rights are respected at the Foxconn plant located in the Nokia Special Economic Zone in Chennai, India.

More than 1,200 permanent workers belonging to the Foxconn India Thozhilalar Sangam (FITS) union, which is affiliated to Center For Indian Trade Unions (CITU), at the plant have been involved in weeks of struggle to have their union recognized by management so as to negotiate wage rises and other demands.

On October 9 police arrested hundreds of workers who had been picketing and striking the plant for several days. Around 319 workers including the trade union leaders were remanded into judicial custody and transferred to Vellore central jail. Remaining workers were let off and around 200 women workers were taken to a bus stop and asked to leave. When the women refused and demanded to be arrested also, they were abused and forced off the police vehicle.

On October 13, the court granted bail to 307 workers. The remaining 12 workers and union leaders remain in jail, including A. Soundhirarajan, CITU State General Secretary and E. Muthu Kumar, CITU District Secretary, Kanchipuram and FITS President.

Workers at the plant with four years experience earn INR 4,800 (US$ 106) per month. FITS is demanding a basic pay of INR 10,000 (US$221), other additional bonuses and health checks and medical insurance.

In addition to the latest rounds of arrests, the company has retaliated by deducting eight days of wages from striking workers’ pay, suspending 23 union activists and leaders, and refusing to negotiate with the union on the grounds that it has entered an agreement with an alternative union the Foxconn India Thozhilalar Munnetra Sangam (FITMS).

It is understood that Foxconn management reached a wage agreement with FITMS 15 days after FITS lodged its wage demands. FITMS claims memberships of 696 workers and reached a wage agreement with Foxconn for a wage increase to INR 8,999 (US$ 177).

Throughout the dispute, the FITS sought assistance from the Deputy Labour Commissioner (DLC) to resolve the issues, including calling on the government authority to conduct an election to determining the majority union at the site. Despite the DLC advising the company to negotiate and not take actions that would lead to the victimization of the workers, the government has failed to take steps to remedy the situation. Instead, police have been used to repeatedly harass, arrest and detain the striking workers.

There are approximately 7,800 workers at the Foxconn India plant, of this 1,800 are employed on a permanent basis and 6,000 are contract or trainee workers.

See a timeline of recent events at Foxconn India here

Oct 18, 2010 – Anita Gardner