When Overtime is Forced Labour
Excessive overtime is common in the electronics sector. Workers often prefer long hours to come closer to a living wage. But long hours of overtime are not result of low wages alone. It can also be a form of forced labour.
In the words of an electronics worker in the Philippines:
"Our overtime is forced work, forced overtime. When you refuse, there is a penalty, a suspension. You have to meet the target output they gave you... Many workers are threatened with termination if they refuse overtime."
Workers in the Philippines told Electronics Watch monitors of three key reasons management would deny requests not to work overtime:
They have to meet the target for immediate shipping. There is no worker available to replace or relieve them. A client is visiting.
These workers said they had no choice but to submit to overtime because they might receive a poor performance evaluation or could even lose their jobs if they refused. Some On-the-Job-Trainees added that their low wages force them to work extended hours to increase their take home pay.
The International Labour Organisation has explained that the imposition of overtime does not constitute forced labour under the Forced Labour Convention (No. 29) as long as it is within the limits permitted by national legislation or collective agreements. However, beyond those limits, overtime that is imposed “under the menace of a penalty,” such as dismissal or wages below the legal minimum, is forced labour. These are the conditions of overtime work of many workers we interviewed in the Philippines and elsewhere.