Out of focus

REPORT | 17 October 2011

MakeITfair’s first report on digital cameras shows that company CSR-policies do not live up to international labour- and human rights standards. The report also shows that workers at four Vietnamese camera factories suffer from uncertain working conditions.

MakeITfairs report “Out of focus” on digital camera companies in Vietnam shows that the major issue is the lack of freedom of association and collective bargaining power. Although this issue is understandable as the Vietnamese labour law foresees in only one legal trade union, without taking proactive steps to act responsible, the electronics companies in Vietnam risk wild cat strikes.

The report shows camera companies in Vietnam, which are producing for the European market, can do more to produce responsibly in Vietnam. Instead of passively following existing restrictive labour laws, electronics companies can use their leverage as important foreign investors to push Vietnam towards better industrial relations. They can also act more responsibly within the law by adopting some of the best practices as described in this report to improve social dialogue and grievance mechanisms.

The report also presents results from interview with 84 workers on working conditions at four factories in Vietnam. The interviews concern working conditions at Sanyo’s, Pentax, Samsungs and Olympus factories in Vietnam and show that workers suffer from the uncertain working conditions due to short contracts. None of the 84 workers interviewed at the factories had ever been questioned about social issues or workers rights. They had not experienced real collective bargaining and they all described the union as closely connected to the factory management. MakeITfair sees an urgent need for the companies to improve their social engagement and social compliance.
MakeITfair recommends electronics companies the following:

  • Bring the company Codes of Conduct and labour policies up to international labour- and human rights standards such as the OECD Guidelines, the UN Principles on Business and Human Rights and ISO 26000. The Code of Conducts and policies should include the ILO conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
  • Start auditing factories and link order placement to audit results.
  • Establish genuine grievance mechanisms for the workers.
  • Provide training on workers’ rights and responsibilities, the benefits of genuine workers’ representation and increase the awareness on the Code of Conduct among workers.
  • In an country where promoting workers’ rights is risky, the company has a role in creating an safe environment in which workers are not afraid of punishment for organizing to defending their rights.
  • Improve dialogue and capacity building aiming on long term partnership with suppliers.