Labour Research January 2018

Health & Safety Matters

Electronics industry conditions laid bare

Workers are being exposed to highly toxic substances, long and unpredictable hours, bullying, harassment and violence in the global electronics industry, according to researchers, campaigners and trade unionists. 

A range of international speakers addressed the annual conference of monitoring organisation Electronics Watch in London in December. They described the appalling health and safety conditions and human rights abuses faced by precarious workers — particularly young, women and migrant workers — in countries including China, the Czech Republic, Indonesia, India, Thailand and Vietnam. 

The conference, Ending precarious labour: public buyers’ role in protecting the rights of electronics workers, examined the role of public procurement in improving conditions and explained how Electronics Watch can help public sector organisations ensure respect for workers’ rights and safety standards in the factories that make the ICT equipment they buy.

Public sector union UNISON recently became the first trade union to affiliate to the organisation and the first UK union to ensure that the electronics they buy are independently monitored for workers’ rights violations. 

One of the conference presentations, Stories of women workers in Vietnam’s electronics industry, offers “a rare glimpse into life on the Samsung factory floor”. It aims to raise public awareness about harsh conditions in the industry, highlighting high rates of miscarriage, pregnant women standing for entire shifts to avoid deductions from their wages for taking breaks, and workers’ lives being controlled inside and outside of work.