Was there a Chinese hand in the recent women workers' protest at Foxconn Technology India Pvt Ltd factory in Tamil Nadu?
It seems so, as per a report by The Week magazine quoting an intelligence report.
However, trade union leaders refute such views and point out that the protest had nothing to do with the factory or the working condition in the factory, near Chennai
The Week, in its online edition, quoted the intelligence report as saying: "Chinese aid to the left leaning workforce inside Foxconn."
Citing the intelligence report, it said: "The knee-jerk reaction to the substandard canteen food causing ill health to a few staff members is an indicator of an international design to destabilise industrial establishments."
Late last month, hundreds of workers of Foxconn protested on the National Highway demanding to know the status of colleagues who were affected by food poisoning recently.
According to workers, several women workers were affected due to food poisoning after taking lunch at one of the dormitories.
The affected workers were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment and some were admitted. According to workers, the management did not give any proper answer when queried about the health condition of women workers who were admitted to the hospital.
Queried about the "Chinese aid@ for workers protest, DMK Rajya Sabha member and Secretary General of the party's labour arm, Labour Progressive Federation (LPF), M. Shanmugam told IANS: "The workers protested on issues outside the factory. They had protested against the food provided in their hostel and the facilities there."
He said the workers put in long hours of work, and there will come a flash point when they resort to protests.
Echoing him, G. Sukumaran, General Secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Tamil Nadu, told IANS: "The reality was that the women workers were staying in buildings not certified as hostels. They had suffered food poisoning and the issue was brewing among the workers for three days."
"When there was a WhatApp message about the fate of seven workers, workers had reached their flash point and began their protest," he said, adding that the CITU and others were interested in an amicable resolution.
The seven workers had gone to their native places and they spoke to the protesting workers on WhatApp call, he added.
Sukumaran also said the Chinese hand theory is a bit far fetched as that country would not be majorly affected because of Foxconn manufacturing here.
Shanmugam said: "Foxconn is not a new company.A It was producing components for Nokia earlier."
According to the union leaders, the Chinese aid theory is perhaps to shift the blame on the workers.
About 14,000 men and women are employed in the Foxconn unit that makes electronic components, iPhones for Apple and others.
Many of the women workers are staying in the nearby dormitories.
Later, in wake of the protests, the Tamil Nadu government urged Foxconn to provide necessary basic facilities at the hostels where its women workers are staying.
The state government said it has urged the Foxconn to improve the boarding and lodging facilities of its contract workers, provide adequate number of bathrooms and toilets, drinking water facilities and well ventilated rooms, get the District Collectors permission for the worker's hostels, and cook/supply the food at the place where the workers are staying.
The company was also asked sanction leave for the workers when they ask for it and make alternate arrangements with the manpower supply agencies during their absence.
According to the government, Foxconn has agreed to implement the suggestions.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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