LUPC and Electronics Watch (EW) are committed to addressing modern slavery risks.  LUPC’s aim is to continue to be a leader in this area as we strive to ensure the framework agreements we deliver for our members cause no harm to others.  We have developed practical guidance to help you write your own Modern Slavery statement as well as held our suppliers to account on their Modern Slavery Statements.

As modern slavery is currently a common occurrence in the electronics industry, Electronics Watch is committed to driving improvements.   The following two case studies highlight exactly where they have done just this and you can read more in this report by Danwatch, an organisation Electronics Watch works closely with.

Student Intern Labour in China

In 2015, one of the first issues that EW started monitoring, following concerns identified in the SSSNA framework agreement was that of involuntary student labour. Chinese education policy requires secondary vocational institutions to provide student internships which should be related to the field of a student’s study.

The reality uncovered was that a high number of student interns were being forced to work in ICT factories, particularly in server factories, and were unable to choose when and where they intern. Receipt of their educational diplomas was contingent on the completion of the internship. Many, including Xu Min, who was an accountancy undergraduate student, ended up working 10-12 hours a day, 6 days per week, including long night shifts with minimal breaks. This is a form of forced labour and goes also against Chinese work time regulation for student interns.

Since this issue first came to light in 2015, EW has engaged in onsite worker surveys, worker-management dialogue training, dialogue with brands and the factory concerned, and affiliate engagement.

Improvements were made in 2017 with factories implementing stricter student intern policies to which EW affiliates directly contributed. Members of UK Universities Purchasing Consortia purchasing the servers, put Electronics Watch supplier engagement recommendations into effect and contacted their account management representatives at each supplier raising concerns and asking for new policies to be implemented.  Improvements were made including students no longer being allowed to work overtime or overnight and internships had to fit within students’ course of study, including mentoring and skills development.

At the end of October 2018, Hong Kong-based NGO Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), indicated that the issues had arisen again.  EW continues to monitor the situation and seek confirmation that previously agreed to policies are being adhered to.

Migrant workers from Myanmar in Thailand

Workers alerted EW’s monitoring partner, the Burmese Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN), of a Thai factory retaining workers’ passports or other identity documents. MWRN conducted interviews with a number of migrant workers from Myanmar regarding document retention and other recruitment practices at the factory.

Workers interviewed had been employed for between two months and a year. None of them were in possession of their original identity documents, with passports and work permits being held by recruitment agencies or subcontractors.

MWRN also identified that many migrant workers had paid money to get their jobs, and so had incurred debts of between US$150-700 to recruitment agencies. Workers’ wage slips also showed deductions for food and housing. 

When migrant workers are deprived of their own passports and personal identity documents and charged high recruitment fees, their freedom of movement is curtailed. They are therefore at risk of forced labour or debt bondage. This is prohibited in:

  • ILO conventions;
  • EW code - refusing to return personal documents is a forced labour violation;
  • The relevant brand’s Supply Chain Foreign Migrant Worker Standard which prohibits factories, recruitment agencies and other third parties from holding ID documents, passports etc. where not required by law;

Electronics Watch’s engagement on this led to a number of tangible improvements. EW has worked with the brand concerned to achieve:

  • Immediate return of all ID and personal documents to workers;
  • Workers moved from temporary to permanent work placements;
  • Compensation for debt for roughly 10,000 workers has been repaid, totalling nearly $10million with roughly $1000 being paid to each worker.

More information can be found here.