Why Purchasing Practices Have Consequences for Workers

A young woman who works in an industrial zone in India shows us the blisters on her fingers. She has joined a labour rights training together with some 50 workmates on her day off. She holds up her fingers so all can see.  “Sometimes they bleed,” she says.

This woman makes chargers for electronic equipment, gluing two parts together. This is her job, all day, every day.

“Do you know the chemicals you are handling?” we ask.

“No,” she replies.

“But don’t you wear gloves to protect your fingers?”

“No. That would make me too slow. I wouldn’t be able to meet the target. I have to put together 15,000 chargers every day.”

In an eight-hour day, she has to average more than one complete charger every other second.

“If you can’t make the target you get called into a meeting with management. The second time you don’t make it target you get a warning letter.  So we don’t wear gloves. Our only protection is to leave the department and let fresh workers take our place.”

In other words: large purchasing orders with short timelines and low prices may result in high quotas that workers cannot meet safely.