Dire working conditions in computer production

CAFOD Report, Monday 26 January 2004

Monica used to make parts for IBM & Hewlett Packard products. I truly think that people are better off in prison than we were.

A new CAFOD report, Clean Up Your Computer, exposes the dire working conditions in computer production in the developing world.

CAFOD has proof that electronic workers in Mexico, Thailand and China suffer harassment, discrimination and intolerable working conditions. The workers produce parts that end up in the computers of companies such as Hewlett Packard, Dell and IBM.

In Thailand, an electronics worker making components for Dell computers earns around £2.50 per day. Michael Dell, the CEO of Dell, earned £134,000 per day in 2003.

CAFOD's Private Sector Analyst Katherine Astill said, The current situation is unacceptable. Its products may embody the latest in high technology, but labour standards in computer manufacturing can be appallingly low.

CAFOD is campaigning for brand leaders to take greater responsibility for electronics workers. It wants Hewlett Packard, Dell, and IBM to adopt and ensure effective implementation of codes of conduct based on UN standards.

Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Dell have seen the evidence, and CAFOD has welcomed their initial responses to the findings and included them in the report. So far Hewlett Packard has the best track record on labour standards, but all the companies recognise that more must be done. Humiliating recruitment practises

In Guadalajara, Mexico, CAFOD uncovered evidence of discriminatory and humiliating recruitment practises by the employment agencies supplying contract workers for the computer industry.

One woman, Monica, told CAFOD about her recruitment by a contract manufacturer for an assembly line in a company making printers for Hewlett Packard.

Monica says she was forced to strip, including taking off her underwear, then touched in sensitive areas by medical examiners that said they were looking for tattoos. She was made to take a pregnancy test.

Monica said, It was a totally humiliating experience. It was the worst thing I have ever had to go through. But I didn't know how to complain—I mean they were doing the same thing to everyone.

CAFOD saw interview lists used by recruitment agencies supplying workers for an IBM production line. Reasons for rejection included: Homosexual, more than two tattoos, father is a lawyer, has brought labour claims, worked for a union, pregnancy, does not agree with IBM policies. Poor working conditions

Days after three Guadalajara workers spoke to CAFOD about their treatment, they were fired. Once employed, workers face long shifts on low pay in illegal short-term contracts that lack holidays, health, pension, and employment benefits. One worker at an IBM factory said she was even refused time off when her father died.

One of the main problems is that workers face blacklisting if they complain. Days after three Guadalajara workers spoke to CAFOD about their treatment, they were fired.

The CAFOD report highlights an equally unacceptable situation for electronics workers in Asia. In Thailand, a worker making hard drives that end up in computers sold by companies like Dell earns around £2.50 per day. Michael Dell, the CEO of Dell, earned £134,000 per day in 2003.

Please contact Patrick Nicholson on 0207 326 5559 or 07979781015 for more details or visit CAFOD's website www.cafod.org.uk

Notes for editors