Indian Unions Oppose Apple-Backed Labor Laws

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How do you say “take this job and shove it” in Tamil?

According to a new report from Rest of World, Indian unions are fighting back against labor reforms for which Apple and its manufacturing partner Foxconn lobbied. Those reforms align Indian labor laws more closely with China’s, and are part of Apple’s strategy to diversify its supply chain and be less reliant on China — but still keep the perks of the country’s infamously punishing work culture.

Made In (Anywhere Other Than) China

India’s government is pushing to make the nation the globe’s new factory floor. Having overtaken China as the most populous country in the world, New Delhi also wants to attract foreign companies which have historically looked further east for their manufacturing needs. This dovetailed neatly with Apple’s plans, as the iPhone maker was reminded very painfully during China’s various lockdowns just how dependent it was on the country for its supply needs.

But not everyone shares China’s zeal for draconian labor laws and a working culture that gave birth to the so-called “996” week, which is shorthand for 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week. There are plenty of Chinese citizens who don’t like the 996 system and it’s frequently the subject of controversy.

Apple and Foxconn successfully lobbied the regional government of the Indian state of Karnataka to, among other things, lengthen maximum factory shift hours from 9 to 12 hours. But unions and political groups aren’t taking the news lying down:

  • While Apple tried to lobby the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu into introducing a similar bill that would have lifted the ceiling on work shifts to 12 hours, the bill was later repealed following push-back from labor groups and political opposition.
  • Earlier this month the government of Karnataka was voted out and replaced with a political party that vehemently opposed the Apple-backed bill in the past, so it’s possible that too could get iced.

Labor unions also filed a complaint about the Karnataka law with India’s International Labour Organization, and K. Radhakrishnan, president of the All India United Trade Union Centre, told Rest of World that the measure “is against every rule in the labor law book.”

Goggle Troubles: While Apple has met a feisty reception in India, it’s probably wishing it could generate a few more sparks on Wall Street. Bloomberg reports that investors are fairly lukewarm on Apple’s upcoming AR/VR headset. Part of the problem is that the investor hype surrounding the metaverse and its associated products has been swept away by ChatGPT.

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