A new investigative report, which includes field research in South Korea, points out at severe violations of labour rights in the electronics industry, particularly regarding health and safety issues, and freedom of association restrictions.
Everyday thousands of workers in Asia are exposed to dangerous chemicals without the required protection while making computers and other ICT equipment. One of the most dangerous chemicals used is benzene, which has been recognised as a serious cancerogenic in Europe and the US and its industrial use is heavily restricted.
MiYeon Kim worked testing semiconductors for computers in South Korea for over 15 years. She is now paying the price for cheap and unethical production. “I experienced headaches and menstrual pains and had trouble getting pregnant. Eventually, I did, but it turned out to be a tumour, so I had an abortion. The company only gave me five days sick leave, so I had to resign. Nine days after my resignation I found out that I had another tumour, which was cancerous,” MiYeon Kim explains.
The report titled ‘Winds of change: public procurement’s potential for improving conditions in the ICT industry’, has been written by Danwatch, and points out also at the harassment to workers who attempt to unionise in South Korea and in other countries’ where Samsung and its suppliers have production facilities. Samsung’s no union policy along their supply chain uses a range of tactic to deter attempts to unionise including dispatching workers to other factories, firings, and issuing threats to workers and their families.
The suppression of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining make it impossible for workers to promote fairer and safer working conditions. At the same time public sector institutions spend a huge amount taxpayer money in ICT equipment every year. European governments have a declared goal of being socially responsible in all its investments. This is however made impossible by the lack of structures and transparency in the electronics industry.
Electronics Watch offers an independent monitoring service for their public buyer members in collaboration with unions and labour rights groups in producer countries. These will not only monitor working conditions in the factory, but will also implement remediation programmes where violations of labour right abuses are found.
Very recently an online petition has been released on the Avaaz website, which aims at collecting thousands of signatures to call on local and national governments and public sector organisations to affiliate to Electronics Watch. If you want to give your support, go to Avaaz, and sign the petition.Winds of change (646 downloads)