Silenced to deliver

REPORT | 24 August 2008

Workers at the mobile factories handle chemicals without protective equipment, work inhumane overtime hours and are punished if they make misstakes.

Swedwatch and Fair Trade Center has investigated the working conditions at six factories in China and the Philippines, which manufactures components for Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, LG, Sony Ericsson and Apple’s iPhone. On several point the working condition is not following the national laws, international conventions or the buyers’ own ethical codes.

Employees often work ten to twelve hours a day, six to seven days a week – in violation of national laws and international conventions. The minimum wage has become the standard for full-time job, which is far from enough to cover the basic needs of a family in the Philippines.

None of the major mobile companies is willing to discuss the low wage levels in factories at this point. This in spite that the low wages can explain a number of other problems that companies promise to fight in their codes of conduct. Low wages for full-time work leads to inhumane overtime hours for the factory worker to make ends meet. Overtime Hours in turn impair the health of workers. Some fall asleep and make mistakes because of fatigue and are punished with pay cuts to reduce their salary even further. The high work rate means that many do not have time to put on any protective equipment even though they handle hazardous chemicals.

Both in China and the Philippines, electronics workers are silenced through anti-union action by both employers and the state. In China, however, the number of strikes and complaints to authorities on abuse in the workplace has strongly increased in recent years, a development that the government tried to cushion including a more generous labor laws. Inspections by the authorities, however few, and free and independent trade unions are banned.

Many suppliers point to the mobile companies’ partly conflicting requirements. On the one hand, the buyer has lower production costs. On the other hand, they want better working conditions and increased environmental concerns – which of course costs money. Larger suppliers can deal with this equation if they want, but for smaller companies further down the supply chain it’s more difficult. And there aren’t any controls being made in these parts of the supply chain by the mobile companies’.

Made in collaboration with: MakeITFair