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Phony Equality at Nokia

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Titled Phony Equality, the report has been published by SOMO, an independent NGO working on social, ecological and economic issues related to sustainable development, and it looked at industrial relations, wages and employment security at four factories belonging to Nokia and three of its suppliers. Why Nokia? The company is a leading player in the mobile sector in India. To give you an idea of the scale of its Indian operations, its Sriperumbudur plant is Nokia’s largest factory world-wide. As the report points out, “this makes industrial relations at Nokia in India of critical significance”. One of the suppliers named in the report is Foxconn – and it was the high suicide rates(opens in new window) at Foxconn’s Chinese factories that shoved Apple into the spotlight in the first place.

The findings in brief
SOMO has discovered that around 50% of Nokia’s workforce in India (including those working for it’s Indian suppliers) are either on temporary contracts or are “trainees”. Neither status entitles them to the same wages, protections or career opportunities that permanent employees enjoy.

In its blog post about the report, SOMO says that “pay for Nokia’s trainees and contract workers is around 70-80 Euros per month … According to Asia Floor Wage, the minimum living wage in India would be 130 Euros per month. Only the most experienced permanent workers for Nokia and Foxconn had reached this level, thanks to union settlements.”

Permanent workers are protected by a union that both Nokia and Foxconn have recognized and negotiated with in recent years. And wages and benefits for this group of workers have improved as a result – Nokia’s operators have seen wage payments triple in just five years. But SOMO is also careful to point out that contract workers are excluded from negotiations, and that it’s not clear to what extent union members are representative of the total labour force.

What’s Nokia’s Rank a Brand ranking?
As soon as we read this report, we went to check where Nokia sits in our rankings(opens in new window) . For the questions about climate change, it scores 4 out of 5. On our questions on environmental policy, it scores 6 out of 7. Very good. For our questions on labour conditions and fair trade? 2 out of 6.

In its supplier code of conduct, Nokia only includes the minimum standards we ask for: no child or slave labour, safe and hygienic working conditions, no discrimination of any kind. There is no mention of either maximum working hours or living wages. Plus, Nokia doesn’t fully report on whether its suppliers actually comply with the minimum standards it does ask for.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that SOMO has revealed unsafe or unfair practices at factories linked to Nokia’s supply chain. It’s 2006 report, the High Cost of Calling, “reveals abuses in Chinese, Thai, Philippine and Indian factories of the five largest mobile telephone companies: Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG.”

Nokia was one of the few companies to respond(opens in new window) to this report (read SOMO’s response to the response here). So we should hear what they think about this latest report pretty soon…

19-09-2011 © Rank a Brand

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