The GoodElectronics annual Round Table meeting took place this year in Jakarta, Indonesia. With over 50 participants from all over the world, the Round Table was a successful event, examining developments that currently affect the electronics sector all over the world. The need to protect labour rights was at the core of all the discussions. Environmental issues were also discussed.
As the Round Table took place in Jakarta, the situation in the Indonesian electronics sector was given ample attention. The Indonesian trade union federations FSPMI and SBSI, as well as research organisations Business Watch Indonesia (BWI) and the Trade Union Rights Centre (TURC) contributed to the meeting as co-organisers and hosts. One exceptional feature of the Indonesian electronics sector is the high level of unionisation – unrivalled in any other electronics producing country. Thai labour rights organisations present at the meeting have a long way to go before that point is reached. However, unfortunately, unionisation, like good labour laws, are as yet no guarantee that labour rights are duly respected. In Indonesia, as in countries such as India, Mexico, Thailand and Malaysia, implementation and enforcement of labour and environmental laws is very problematic, to the detriment of the workers.
The Round Table programme lasted a full five days, including field visits to a Panasonic Indonesia plant and to a residential area where electronics workers were interviewed. The programme also included three capacity-building workshops – tailored to impart to the participants functional information and knowledge on a number of themes. These day-long workshops looked into issues in the areas of freedom of association and precarious work, and included a session on how to deal with companies in the electronics sector. Participants in the Round Table discussed the best ways to make producers and buyers comply with local and international laws – ranging from social dialogue by unions to campaigning. Besides three capacity building workshops, additional discussion sessions were organised, looking into issues in the areas of extractives, e-waste and occupational (and environmental) health & safety. The meeting also cast a critical eye on the sustainability initiatives of the electronics industry, EICC and GeSI.
The main thread of all the discussions was how GoodElectronics as a network can take up the issues discussed. The individual participants to GoodElectronics each have their own particular focus and approach to dealing with issues. Respecting the focus and role chosen by each organisation, GoodElectronics is all about creating synergy and added value by bringing organisations together and by defining areas where joint activities and campaigns can be undertaken. A series of concrete plans was designed to streamline the exchange of information and research efforts, and to continue dialogue on issues such as e-waste, freedom of association and precarious employment.
The anticipated effects of the current global financial crisis for the electronics sector were discussed at length. In China, for example in Guangdong province, the first layoffs have already been taken place. The Round Table issued a statement addressing this development, calling for due protection of workers’ rights in these unstable times.