2019 June 21

Lewisham Council commits to tackling abuses in global supply chains

Lewisham Council has become the second local authority in the UK to be affiliated with Electronics Watch, joining over 300 public sector organisations around the world working to end the abuse and exploitation of workers involved in the supply of electronic items. UNISON, one of the UK's largest trade unions and also an Electronics Watch affiliate, has devised a four-year plan to work with UK public bodies to eliminate the use of goods which are sourced or produced through modern slavery and other abuses of workers.

Around £250 billion is spent by public organisations in the UK annually on the procurement of items such as electronic goods and uniforms, as well as catering and construction. UNISON is working with Electronics Watch and international unions to highlight and remedy poor practice that leads to the production of work equipment falling short of international agreed workers' rights.

Lewisham Council signed an agreement at a fringe meeting during UNISON's National Delegate Conference in Liverpool. The event was attended by Damien Egan (Mayor of Lewisham), Huong Ngo (Centre for Development and Integration, Electronics Watch monitoring partner in Vietnam) and Harpreet Paul (UK Electronics Watch representative).

Björn Claeson, Director of Electronics Watch, said: "We are delighted that Lewisham has affiliated to Electronics Watch.

Lewisham increases the strength of an international network of affiliated public buyers to tackle modern slavery and other labour abuses in their electronics supply chains"

Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham, said: "By affiliating with Electronics Watch, Lewisham Council is building on its commitment to tackle Modern Slavery and procure more ethically.

The complexity of councils' supply chains means that tackling Modern Slavery and exploitation in them is a huge challenge. That is why it is so important that local government and trade unions work in partnership and use collective buying power to protect workers' rights and scrutinise every level of the supply chain. That means working only with organisations that have Freedom of Association, so workers are empowered to understand their rights and unionise to protect them."

Dave Prentis, general secretary of UNISON, said: "UNISON congratulates Lewisham Council for taking a lead on this vital issue and we're encouraging all local authorities to do the same and affiliate to Electronics Watch today.

People want to know their workplace computers and the uniforms they wear haven't been made by workers suffering horrendous conditions.

Councils, local hospitals, universities and schools across the country must think about how their goods are sourced. UNISON will use its unique position to bring public bodies together with organisations like Electronics Watch and international trade unions to improve the lives of workers in supply chains around the world."