Thai factory manager offers apology for poor working conditions

In the past year, SOMO has carried out research into the eight largest computer manufacturers and their suppliers. When the study results were presented, a number of the computer manufacturers asked for clarification about the abuses described by SOMO at the factories in their supply chains which were investigated. The first reaction of the Thai factories was that they are fully complying with Thai labour legislation. It is true that Thai law allows for 36 hours of overtime in addition to the standard working week of 48 hours, and the statutory minimum wage is lower than a living wage. None of the suppliers identified the EICC, which for example sets a maximum working week of 60 hours, or the codes of conduct of their customers as their guideline. In view of the fact that the large computer manufacturers have endorsed these codes of conduct, their suppliers must also comply with them.

In order to realise the implementation of the EICC, Hewlett Packard organised a Suppliers' Forum, together with SOMO, on 18 May 2007 in Bangkok. Almost all the factories investigated by SOMO were represented, often along with managers from their parent companies, mostly Japanese. Local trade unions and labour organisations were in the opportunity to address the problems in the factories and the audience was listening attentively.

HP must also bear responsibility for the suppliers' ignorance of international agreements, as for example they have never provided the factory managers with a Thai translation of the EICC. When one of the local labour organisations showed up with a Thai translation of the code made for the occasion, it was immediately copied by HP for all the managers present.

The setting of the forum was unique for Thailand; factory managers, employees' representatives and a large brand discussing the working conditions face to face. It became clear that the debate had had an impact when one of the managers openly offered an apology for the bad working conditions, which according to him were in the past. SOMO will follow up on the study of working conditions in the electronics sector.