Impressive turn out at the Electronics Watch Annual Conference 2017
90 participants from 18 countries, including 28 public buyers, attended the Electronics Watch Annual Conference 2017: Ending Precarious Labour – Public Buyers' Role in Protecting the Rights of Electronics Workers for what proved to be an intense and eye-opening day with contributions from a wide array of experts in socially responsible public procurement and labour rights in the global electronics industry.
Electronics Watch's second annual conference took place at the magnificent Octagon Building at Queen Mary University of London on 7th December with an impressive turn out.
An outstanding keynote panel opened the event approaching the questions What is the role of public buyers in protecting the rights of electronics workers? What has been achieved and what are challenges that lie ahead? Heather White, Co-Director and Producer of the film "Complicit" emphasised the importance of monitoring the sub-contractors, who according to her, are often not that hard to find, sometimes literally "just across the road." Kristian Hemström from Stockholm County Council, one of the largest public buyers in Sweden, highlighted the need to focus on large issues such as worker empowerment, living conditions, and living wages over the long term. He also noted their growing influence as a result of the joint leverage they achieved as affiliates of Electronics Watch, and the importance of ongoing work of affiliates to harmonize socially responsible public procurement processes within international and national legal frameworks. Kan Matzusaki from IndustriALL, which represents 50 million workers from 400 unions in 140 countries, reminded the audience that 80% of our ICT is made by companies based in countries that have not ratified The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and The Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1951 (No. 98); that is, South Korea, USA and China. Another key problem, according to Kan Matzusaki, is the final price of the product. In order to be able to cover a living wage, we need to look deeper into what is a fair price of electronics products.
Throughout the rest of the day participants heard monitoring organisations from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Czech Republic and India talking about the major issues they have uncovered in their investigatory work for Electronics Watch. Other panels discussed transparency in the supply chain and the latest developments in Socially Responisble Public Procurement. One panel shed light on the up and down production cycles in the electronics industry and its consequences for workers.
More details on these sessions for those interested will be included in the conference report which will be made available on our website in the new year. Some of the presentations will also be available on the programme page on our website.
Special thanks go to the co-organizers Business Human Rights and the Environment Research Group (BHRE) at the University of Greenwich, Good Electronics network, and Queen Mary University of London, and to University of Edinburgh and APUC who also supported the event.