A US-based watchdog agency has released findings on labor abuses at MSI Computer (Shenzhen) Co. Ltd., a Taiwan-based company and supplier of global brand electronics companies including Dell, HP, NEC, and other OEMs.
The agency, China Labor Watch, did not report incidents of suicide, which in the past were associated with labor practices at global EMS/ODM provider Foxconn, but noted “serious concerns” about MSI Computer.
These concerns include:
- Blatant discrimination against male workers and older workers
- Hepatitis B testing is mandatory and all carriers are disqualified from recruitment
- Pregnancy testing is mandatory and may be used in a discriminatory nature
- There are only one or two rest days each month during the peak season
- There is a 12+ hour/day, six- or seven-day work week during the peak season. Working hours exceed the statutory maximum, and EICC standard of 60 hours/week
- Before work “educational sessions” and after work self-criticism reviews are mandatory, and unpaid
- If a production quota is not met, there is additional unpaid overtime
- There is no paid sick leave, maternal leave, or marriage leave
- During working hours, talking is strictly forbidden, and workers are unable to use the bathroom
- If management discovers a mistake, they will criticize or personally insult and belittle the worker
- Seasonal production fluctuations create unreasonable work intensity with no rest, or low wages
- The unspoken resignation rule is that workers must voluntarily resign and forfeit 12 days of wages
Since the management at MSI is only focused on end results, according to the report, the production process is sustained at the expense of the interests and well-being of the workers. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated situation, and the MSI case is representative of many electronics factories in China's Pearl River Delta.
As the readily available labor supply continues to contract, workers at electronics factories such as MSI will likely have to redouble their work intensity to complete production orders.
Executive Director of China Labor Watch, Li Qiang, states: “Workers are becoming less willing to stand for compromising working conditions, excessive hours and unfair wages. It is in the interest of the workers, factories and buyer companies to improve workers' situations and create retaining incentives.”
It is imperative for Western companies using subcontractors in Asia to put pressure on their partners to improve labor conditions. Although substandard treatment of factory workers may be accepted in China, low-cost manufacturing cannot come at the expense of human rights. Dell, HP, and NEC should make it clear to their partners that abuses will not be tolerated and lay out a plan for improvement. Otherwise, companies should consider taking their business elsewhere. The companies had said they would investigate Chinese labor practices following the incidents at Foxconn.
End-users of electronics products should also pressure companies to uphold standards throughout their supply chains. Buyers of electronics products are willing to change suppliers or exert pressure on OEMs to go “green.” Why should human rights be any different? If anything, the pressure should be more intense when it comes to labor standards.