Date of release: Monday, November 23, 2015
The grim reality that can lie behind the hi-tech glamour of the electronics industry will be investigated in an event at the University of Greenwich in December.
Investigations into conditions for workers in the electronics supply chain have revealed extremely low wages as well as excessive working hours, forced overtime, discrimination and punitive rules. High-risk or unsafe working conditions are commonplace, including a lack of safety precautions for the use of hazardous substances.
"While the electronics industry is key to today's economy and one of the fastest growing global industries, the uncomfortable question remains of how much do we know about how our smartphones, laptops or tablets are made?" says Dr Olga Martin-Ortega, from the university's School of Law.
"We'll be aiming to shed some light on aspects that many are, perhaps, not aware of. Since 2005, for example, 23 young workers from Foxconn's factories in China have committed suicide. Major brands such as Dell, Apple and HP all source from Foxconn."
The event, Behind Your Screen: Human and Environmental conditions in the electronics industry, is free of charge to attend and takes place on Thursday 3 December. It features a panel of international experts involved with global supply chains and the electronics industry, who will look in detail at the human rights, labour conditions and environmental issues behind the manufacture of our popular electronic devices.
Co-organiser Dr Opi Outhwaite, also from the School of Law, within the university's Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities, adds that the industry is characterised by an increasing use of temporary agency workers to respond to seasonal peaks in demand, such as at Christmas or when new products are launched. "Temporary workers tend to be students and migrant workers, who are more vulnerable to discrimination and reduced legal protection," she says.
"The use of forced internships has also been documented in China, where tens of thousands of students work as interns in the assembly lines of IT factories every summer producing for the world's biggest brands. Many of them are forced into internships and cannot quit or they will not graduate."
Behind Your Screen: Human and Environmental conditions in the electronics industry takes place at the Crit Pit, Stockwell Street, between 4pm and 6.30pm.
Organised by the Business, Human Rights and the Environment Research Group of the School of Law, the event is supported by the University of Greenwich's Sustainability Hub.
On Friday 4 December, the university is also hosting a one-day (invite only) symposium for procurement professionals, titled Socially Responsible Public Procurement of Electronic Products: Challenges of Monitoring the Global Supply Chain. This will focus on how public procurement professionals can drive demand for responsibly sourced electronics and achieve effective monitoring of the supply chain.
To find out more about studying Law at the University of Greenwich: http://www2.gre.ac.uk/study/courses/ug/law