China: Danwatch investigations found forced interns at Wistron - manufacturer of HP, Dell & Lenovo servers - companies respond

Danwatch has investigated the supply chain of servers bought by European universities and found that...tens of thousands of Chinese students are sent by their schools - many of them forced, on irrelevant internships to the assembly lines of electronic factories to produce servers and other ICT equipment for the world’s biggest brands. Interns work 10-12 hours a day, six days a week for 3-5 months producing equipment that later will end in universities across Europe.Danwatch investigated the supply chain of servers at European universities because, according to Principle 6 of UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as public procurers universities have a particular responsibility to protect human rights when doing business with companies.

HP, Dell and Lenovo are the leading server brands in the higher education sector in Europe, according to market data and Danwatch’s research. Wistron Corporation in Zhongshan, China,manufactures servers for all three brands.Danwatch’s investigation and interviews with student interns from Wistron in Zhongshan reveals several violations of interns’ rights, Chinese labour law and the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) convention on forced labour.

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6 October 2015

HP and Dell suspend use of interns in Chinese factories

Author: Marta Kasztelan, on Guardian (UK)

"HP and Dell suspend use of interns in Chinese factories", 6 Oct 2015

...The investigation took DanWatch to the assembly lines of Wistron Corporation in Zhongshan, which manufactures servers for HP, Dell and Lenovo, where it found Chinese students working against their will – they won’t graduate otherwise – often between 10 to 12 hours a day for up to five months...

All three tech giants put in the crosshairs by DanWatch have corporate social responsibility policies and are part of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC)…Companies that are serious about their social responsibility must exercise due diligence, a concept that requires them to look closely at their operations, including their supply chains, and identify, prevent and mitigate negative human rights impacts and account for how they address them.

In this case it seems Dell, HP and Lenovo failed to look closely enough. Yes, the electronic’s industry supply chain is particularly complex, but these companies are not new to China and its issues…

While some companies singled out in this report have responded to the allegations better than others, it is still imperative for all of them to start treating due diligence as the cost of doing business in China, and anywhere else they operate.

That means devoting considerable resources for human rights due diligence, through training, regular unannounced plant inspections, not restricted to the company’s own assembly line and dedicated staff.

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6 October 2015

Statements and answers from HP, Dell, Lenovo & Wistron to Danwatch questions

...Dell: …Through the EICC (Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition) audit we look for evidence of forced labour such as withholding of passports, disciplinary fines or not being able to terminate their own employment…Dell does not tolerate forced labour and we address any findings immediately…We terminated three suppliers in 2014…for not meeting our SER requirements. It is our objective to drive meaningful change in our supply chain, so we would prefer to work with a supplier and help them improve the working conditions for their employees…

HP:…We take all allegations seriously and conducted an unannounced audit of the facility the next business day after learning of the details of these allegations. Our rigorous on-site evaluation found no evidence to support the presence of involuntary internships, forced overtime, illegal or unethical wage practices, denial of sick leave or systematic inhumane treatment related to HP manufacturing. However, the investigation did identify concerns such as the facility’s lack of proper controls over student working hours and gaps in implementing their responsible student management policies. We will further investigate and institute corrective actions as required… HP found only 10 percent of the workers were student workers – well below our industry leading standard of no more than 20 percent.

Lenovo:…Lenovo currently is and has been a member of the…EICC since 2006 and works to comply with all requirements in our own internal operations and externally with our suppliers…Demonstrating Lenovo’s commitment to enforcing fair labor standards, about 75% of the company’s procurement spend today is with EICC and/or Global e-Sustainability (GeSI) members…

Wistron:…For those students highlighted by Danwatch, students seem to have a misunderstanding of their choices regarding school programs and work at Wistron. Foany misunderstanding by students we will continue to educate them about their choices offered by their schools. We will also continue to ask for their feedback to confirm their willingness to join any programs at our company. Meanwhile, for those students that come to our company we will inform them clearly about all grievance communication channels. With these actions and any future enhancements to our staff related programs we hope all employees are comfortable and satisfied with their time at our company…

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6 October 2015

[PDF] Servants of servers: Rights violations and forced labour in the supply chain of ICT equipment in European universities

Author: Danwatch

Key Findings

•Thousand of students are completing internships at Wistron Corporation Zhongshan from June to October.

•Students are forced to complete internships at Wistron Corporation or schools will deny them graduation. This is a violation of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention on Forced Labour.

•There is no difference between the internships assignment and work conducted by regular workers. Students work 10-12 hours a day, six days a week. The interns work overtime daily or every second day and also work night shifts. These conditions are violations of Chinese labour law, the standards for internships set by the Chinese Ministries of Education and Finance and Wistron, HP, Dell and Lenovo’s own policies and standards for student workers and internship programmes.

•Internships are not related to students education. This is a violation of the AdministrativeMeasures for Internships at Secondary Vocational Schools issued by the Chinese Ministries of Education and Finance.

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