In a fierce statement, the Taiwan Labor Information & Education Association (TLIEA) reports on protests of WINTEK workers regarding poor working conditions and failing communication with the WINTEK management, supplier to well known brands including Apple, HTC and Nokia. The Taiwanese company WINTEK is recently facing a fight back from angry workers, among who are the 700-strong on Taiwan’s manufacture lines that have been laid off early this year, who were rather surprised when they found out WINTEK began to recruit new workers immediately, while these veterans are left jobless. Meanwhile, a subsidiary of WINTEK, MASSTOP in Dongguan, saw more than 7,000 broke in outrage when the workers went on strike +on Friday 17 April 2009, in protest of unlawful cuts on overtime wages and basic benefits.
In a fierce statement, the Taiwan Labor Information & Education Association (TLIEA) reports on protests of WINTEK workers regarding poor working conditions and failing communication with the WINTEK management, supplier to well known brands including Nokia, Apple and HTC.If you are holding an iPhone or an HTC in your hand, you might have contributed to the ordeals of nearly 8,000 factory workers in China and Taiwan
One of Apple’s major suppliers, the Taiwanese company WINTEK, is recently facing a fight back from angry workers, among who are the 700-strong on Taiwan’s manufacture lines that have been laid off early this year, who were rather surprised when they found out WINTEK began to recruit new workers immediately, while these veterans are left jobless. Meanwhile,a subsidiary of WINTEK, MASSTOP in Donguan, saw more than 7,000 broke in outrage when the workers went on strike on Friday 17 April 2009, in protest of unlawful cuts on overtime wages and basic benefits.WINTEK Corporation was established in Taiwan during the 1990s. Its major products include flat monitors such as LCDs, LCMs and touch panels, occupying the largest market share of touch panels and small-sized mobile phone panels, ranking among the top 3 suppliers worldwide. WINTEK allocates 12 of its manufacture lines in Taoyuan, Taichung and Kaohsiung, Taiwan, employing as many as 3,550 workers; for its two factories in Dongguan and Suzhou, China, 18,150 workers are employed, while its Chennai factory has 1,450 workers. It spreads its worldwide sales networks across the US, Korea and Germany. WINTEK’s major clients include Apple (iPhone), Nokia and HTC
More than 700 Taiwan factory workers laid off
Since November 2008, WINTEK had begun to cut salaries and stopped paying benefits, and resorted to forcing unpaid leaves on employees. On December 17, and the day after, more than 700 employees were laid off unexpectedly (the number can rise to near 1,000 if contract and migrant workers are to be included). WINTEK did not file a report to the Administration of Labour Affairs or embark on a negotiation process with its employees 60 days beforehand, as was written in the labour laws.
It was said the company targeted pregnant women and veteran workers, for they would have cost the company much more than just hiring inexperienced workers; this could be viewed as an ostensibly discriminative action. After protest, the would-be mothers went back to work, but the others are still fighting their jobs back.The company claimed that this measure was necessary because the number of orders has dropped sharply and that it was experiencing a bad loss. However, according to its financial statement, WINTEK still has a surplus of four billion TWD (approx. $118 million USD). Taiwanese press also reported that WINTEK had received rush orders, thus needed to hire a large number of new workers. Refer to related press coverage.
For those who appeared lucky to keep their jobs, their pay was cut, (no awards and no subsidies for early shifts) their overtime unpaid, and the night shifts were asked to work longer hours. The workers had to work nonstop in order to make enough to survive. Moreover, the company has filed a lawsuit of defamation against Wei-li Chu (朱維立), chairperson of National Federation of Independent Trade Unions (自主工聯), who has been assisting the unemployed workers for this case.
7,000 workers went on strike, 19 sacked
On April 17, MASSTOP in Donguan, a subsidiary of WINTEK, saw more than 7,000 angry workers went on strike, an action of desolation triggered by third-rate food, as well as missing overtime pay and subsidies.
In February, Masstop demanded the workers to sign an agreement for an overtime wages of only 1.5 times of their normal wages, and told the workforce that this agreement was approved by the labour administration, which later proved to be a lie. By Chinese labour laws, however; those who work overtime should be paid twice of their normal wages; which means if they get less than that, the company is breaching the laws.
Though later in the day of the strike, the company offered to pay twice the normal wages for overtime, but they did not plan to solve the issues with food and subsidies, 19 of the workers continued the strike and were eventually laid off.
Organisation of workers anywhere is no easy task, let along in an environment as silencing and sensitive as China, where labour unions are scarce, and organisation work is often oppressed.
Global support and recognition from outside the country is urgently needed, for the workers in Masstop, Dongguan, to have a chance of winning, or simply getting even, in this battle.
WINTEK’s violation of Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct
To illustrate how international brands such as Apple, Nokia and HTC are responsible for improving the working conditions of WINTEK workers, the protesters have referred to the Code of Conduct outlined by Apple and listed the misconducts of WINTEK, Corp.
1. WINTEK has violated the code concerning overtime wages: “workers must be compensated for overtime hours at the premium rate required by applicable laws and regulations.”
Underpaid overtime wagesWINTEK forced its Taiwanese employees to give up their overtime pay and holiday subsidies, opting for more days off instead. Dongguan Masstop, WINTEK’s subsidiary in Dongguan, claimed on February 26th that the labour administration on Dongguan has approved that its 25% cut in holiday overtime wages. In fact, the administration has never approved such change.
2. WINTEK has violated the code concerning fair treatment to employees according to applicable laws and regulations.Illegally laying off workers
Dongguan Masstop, WINTEK’s subsidiary in Dongguan faced strike because of working condition issues. Though the company agreed to adhere to labour laws and pay overtime wages twice as much as the normal ones, the company made a conditional offer, stating that all workers should be back at work before three in the afternoon. 19 of the workers were laid off because they continued the strike. The fact is, the company agreed to pay the overtime wages only a few days later. According to Chinese labour laws, workers have the rights not to work before they get paid. The company breached the laws by laying them off.
3. WINTEK has violated the code concerning dormitory and dining: “Suppliers must provide workers with clean toilet facilities, access to potable water, and sanitary food.”Food problems
Dongguan Masstop, WINTEK’s subsidiary in Dongguan, has cut the expenses for daily meals from 8 RMB to 4.5 RMB. Some say the food is a far cry from satisfactory. This issue directly resulted to the strike, but the company has not solved it yet.