CALL TO ACTION
by Electronics Watch and the Economic Rights Institute
A Joint Effort to Improve Working Conditions Linked to Poor Mental Health and Risk of Employee Suicide in the Electronics Industry
The Electronics Watch and the Economic Rights Institute report, The Link Between Employment Conditions and Suicide: A Study of the Electronics Sector in China, presents compelling evidence that violations of workers’ rights contribute to the risk of employee suicide incidents in the context of the electronics sector in China. The report calls attention to the industry-wide improvements urgently needed to prevent needless loss of life and improve conditions for all workers.
- Suppliers, brands, buyers down the supply chain, and governments are jointly responsible for mitigating violations of workers’ rights that heighten the risk of employee suicide. This responsibility extends to meeting the costs of improvements necessary to prevent worker rights violations, and reforming purchasing practices that contribute to cycles of influence linked to poor mental health conditions and the risk of employee suicide.
- Public buyers use public funds and hold significant contracts for electronics products. As such, they have a responsibility and an opportunity to help protect the rights and safety of workers in their electronics supply chains. They should take all necessary steps, within the bounds of contractual agreements and public procurement regulations, to contribute to solutions that improve employee mental health and mitigate the risk of employee suicide.
- Unions and civil society actors in a position to know workers’ experience and perspectives are well suited to guide wider efforts to respond to workers’ needs and interests and should contribute their expertise to this work.
Therefore, we call upon the electronics industry, public buyers, unions and civil society to:
Form a multi-stakeholder taskforce to develop, implement, and monitor an action plan to improve employee mental health and effectively address employment conditions and related systemic issues that heighten the risk of employee suicide in the electronics industry.
The action plan should include a clear timeline, be binding on all participants and enforceable through public procurement contracts to guarantee necessary improvements in working conditions linked to poor mental health and the risk of employee suicide. The taskforce should explore opportunities for constructive reform in collaboration with governments.
Following the analysis in The Link Between Employment Conditions and Suicide, we suggest the action plan should include specific, time-bound steps and benchmarks to:
- End “soft” forms of forced labour, including forced overtime and restrictions of workers’ right to resign from their jobs without forfeiting their wages.
- Abolish punitive forms of discipline and intervene effectively to prevent hostility and violence in the workplace.
- Empower workers to collectively influence key enterprise decisions connected to conditions that heighten risk of employee suicide, including productivity norms, overtime and the structure of incentives.
- Address excessive use of flexible employment schemes and other employment arrangements linked to risk of employee suicide.
- Review and revise purchasing practices that contribute to employment conditions linked to employee suicide.
- Hold firms accountable when their violations of workers’ rights contribute to employee suicide.