The business-friendly change extends factory shifts from nine to 12 hours, and allows women to work overnight.
In February, the southern Indian state of Karnataka passed a consequential law that extended factories’ work schedules from nine to 12 hours per day, with a 48-hour weekly cap. Apple and its contract manufacturer Foxconn were among the companies that had lobbied for the change, reported Financial Times, as this would allow them to run round-the-clock, 12-hour production shifts at an upcoming facility in the state, similar to their practice in China.
The new law, however, is facing severe pushback from Indian labor unions, who also lodged a complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO). J.P. Morgan analysts estimate that 25% of Apple products will be manufactured outside China by 2025. Labor issues threaten Apple’s plans for India, which the company views as a key destination for assembling Apple products outside China, alongside Vietnam. The recent tensions in the enforcement of simple labor clauses have laid bare the bottlenecks with improving production capacity in India.
The All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), along with many activist groups, staged protests in March, burning copies of the bill to express opposition to the extension of working hours. The trade union’s president, K. Radhakrishnan, told Rest of World the liberalized law is detrimental to the health of workers, impermissible under international labor conventions, and dials back century-long strides made by workers’ groups to restrict work to nine hours. “Now, the clock is turned back,” Radhakrishnan said. “It is against every rule in the labor law book.” He was hopeful that the new Karnataka government, which had previously opposed the work hour extension, would withhold the bill, like neighboring state Tamil Nadu.