Poor working conditions persist at Chinese suppliers of global IT-brands
Forced overtime, strenuous, long shifts during peak periods with few days off per month, wages lower than a living wage and militant management are persisting grievances in the Chinese IT manufacturing sector.
In the past decade, civil society organisations campaigning for labour rights in the global electronics supply chain have been calling upon the industry to demonstrate corporate accountability, but a new report from European NGOs Danwatch, Centrum CSR.PL, People & Planet, SETEM, Südwind and Weed shows these calls have gone unheeded.
All of them are manufacturing electronic products and components for brands like Dell, ASUS, HP, Samsung, Microsoft, IBM, Compaq, NEC, Yokogawa, Sony, Fujitsu and Phillips.
Two were investigated by undercover researchers from China Labor Watch working in the factories; and the others by DanWatch researchers interviewing workers outside of the factory premises and reviewing written documentation such as payslips and brochures.
The investigation reveals that the employees at the factories work up to 74 hours a week, with a monthly overtime of 52 to 136 hours, are moved between day and night shifts at their employers' will, and in peak seasons work 7 days a week. The factories pay very low wages, making it impossible for workers to live off a 40 hour working week. At two factories a base wage below the region's minimumwage was found. The workers are exposed to harsh fumes without proper protection and experience a psychologically harsh work environment and verbal abuse.
The labour rights violations found in the four factories violate ILO principles, Chinese labour law as well as Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) standards, which several of the brands are members of.
China has long been attractive for IT brands because of low labour costs, weak trade union representation and a general lack of government efforts to enforce national labour legislation. The demand of brands for fast and cheaply produced IT parts has severe consequences for the lives of the workers employed in the electronics industry, a fact NGOs have been campaigning about since 2004, but despite the industry's growing declared commitment to respecting minimum standards, no significant change can be felt on the factory floors according to this new investigation.