2017 March 20

Precarious Employment in Electronics Factories

A recent ILO analysis of "just-in-time" production and related procurement practices in the electronics industry reports on research in five countries that found that 80-90% of production workers have only temporary contracts during peak production periods. Flexible and precarious work arrangements are increasingly common in the global electronics industry.  Workers may be employed by a labour broker or third party rather than the factory where they work.  They may have short-term insecure contracts and no long-term job security or social benefits.

Here are some precarious situations workers in different countries have recently reported to Electronics Watch:

  • Migrant workers housed in dorms, separated from their families, can be called to work at a moment's notice but do not know from month to month or week to week how much work they will have, or if they will earn enough to make a living.  They have no job security and no social security.
  • Core workers dissatisfied with their wages and health and safety conditions organize an independent union.  But the day after they file a petition for certification election the company lays off a large number of its own workers, including nearly all union members, reportedly to prevent substantial business losses, but replaces them with agency supplied contract workers who have poor benefits and no job security.
  • A majority of workers interviewed report being hired by labour brokers rather than by the factory where they work for only two or three month contracts.  A large majority of interviewees have no more than six months' experience at the factory; they explain that worries about health risks causes many workers to resign soon after being hired.

Because precarious work so profoundly impacts workers' day-to-day work experience, restricts their possibility for a voice in the workplace, and undermines their economic security, this will be a theme in Electronics Watch monitoring this year.   If you have conducted research on precarious work in the electronics sector we invite you to get in touch.