Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) has objected to the arrest earlier this month of about 319 workers of Foxconn International Holdings at a factory in Chennai, south India. The workers were striking for a wage increase among other demands.

The basic salary for Foxconn production line workers in Chennai is only about US$106 a month, SACOM, a non-profit organization in Hong Kong, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Foxconn International Holdings is a subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision Industry, which assembles products for a number of companies including Apple and Dell. Hon Hai, which is better known by its Foxconn trade name, was recently blamed for the suicides of some of its workers at a Chinese factory.

The strike launched in September in Chennai was suppressed by the joint efforts of Foxconn and the local police, SACOM said.

Foxconn workers in Chennai are paid less than workers in some of the other factories in the locality, including that of Nokia, said A. Soundararajan, secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), a large leftist trade union. The union is demanding wages of at least rupees 10,000 ($224) for entry-level workers, besides other facilities for workers at the factory, he said.

Foxconn did not respond to an email requesting its comment on the strike and the arrests of the workers. A company spokesman however said in an email that it was untrue that staff at Foxconn's factory in India were under-paid.

Foxconn appears to be caught between two feuding unions at its factory in India. Foxconn recognizes the Labour Progressive Front (LPF) trade union, affiliated to the ruling DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) party that currently runs the local state government of Tamil Nadu.

While CITU workers were striking, Foxconn struck a deal with the LPF-affiliated union in the factory, according to Soundararajan.

The state government and Foxconn want to foist a union led by the ruling party on the workers, but workers are not prepared to accept that, Soundararajan said.

The workers on strike demanded revocation of the suspension of 23 workers, an increase in wages, and recognition of a CITU-affiliated trade union at the factory, Soundararajan said.

All the arrested workers have been released on bail, Soundararajan added.

Foxconn's India facility was in focus earlier this year when it had to suspend operations for several days on the instructions of the government, after workers experienced giddiness and nausea. The cause of the symptoms was probably pesticide sprayed at the facility without proper ventilation, state government officials said at the time.

The facility mainly makes mechanical parts for mobile phones.

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