Impacts of COVID-19 on supply chain workers in the electronics sector

Electronics factory in Shenzhen - photo credit: Steve Jurvetson

Electronics factory in Shenzhen - photo credit: Steve Jurvetson

COVID-19 poses risks to workers in global supply chains, including those in the electronics sector, and in particular workers in vulnerable conditions such as migrant workers. Such risks and impacts have been documented in the mining sector in Latin America as well as in electronics manufacturing in Asia (incl. China (incl Hong Kong), India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam), Europe (e.g., Czech Republic and Italy), and Latin America (e.g., Brazil and Mexico).

Workers in electronics supply chains are faced with conditions including: 

  • loss of working hours and wages, job loss and lack of severance pay, and subsequent inability to cover basic needs,
  • restriction of movement (inability to return to home towns or to leave internships),
  • suspension of collective bargaining agreements and cancellation of wage increases, 
  • health and safety risks (e.g., lack of protective equipment, lack of social distancing measures, request to return to or stay at work despite health and safety risks and under threat of non-payment of wages, continuation of production despite government request to stop production to slow spread of virus).

Sources include: Al Jazeera, Cividep India, Electronics Watch, Fair ICT Flanders, IndustriALL, Reuters, Responsible Business Alliance, Sedane Labour Resource Center, TEAM (Thai union).  

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7 July 2020

Electronics workers face dismissal, suspension of collective bargaining agreements, cancellation of wage increases

Author: IndustriALL

"Facing challenges in the ICT, electrical and electronics sector", (1 July 2020)

The ... impact [of the Covid-19 pandemic] on the ICT, electrical and electronics sectors [ICT EE] was a central topic when the IndustriALL steering committee for the sector met in June. ...

ICT EE workers in telecommunication, energy and healthcare divisions report a higher workload than usual.

Unions from around the world are reporting cases of employers using Covid-19 as an excuse to dismiss workers, suspend CBAs and cancel wage increases.

Thai union TEAM filed a grievance when 12 subcontracted women were laid off.

Focusing on a functioning solution in times of crisis, Swedish union Unionen, reported on a tripartite agreement for short-term work with state support. ...

There are strong concerns over securing workers’ health and safety rights, especially in factories in Latin America ... Brazilian unions report that Covid-19 has revealed structural inequalities in the countries, with women facing great difficulties. 

In Japan, improvements have been made on a Covid-19 related directive on health and safety measures for pregnant women on the initiative of a woman parliament member from the JEIU union. ...

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29 June 2020

Czech Republic: COVID-19 causes health and safety risks, stress, and economic concerns for workers in electronics manufacturing

Author: Electronics Watch

"Excerpts from an interview with a worker from electronics factory in Czech Republic"

[A worker in an electronics factory in the Czech Republic notes that electronics products] cannot be sanitized fully. We cannot spray the sensitive electronics with anticovid-19 ... if we don’t want to destroy them. ... what’s completely new about this crisis is that the workers are expected to pull us through it, as usual, but this time at the cost of their health. The employers were given a blank cheque by the state. ...The truth is that people go to work scared, because spending 11 hours with a couple of hundred other people in the hall, or even a few dozen people in the same manufacturing process ... I don’t remember ever going to work thinking that I may not be there in two weeks’ time. ... right now our primary concern is protecting our people, getting them the protective equipment they need, and trying to limit the effects of the economic crisis that is going to come.

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23 June 2020

Indonesia: Electronics workers face lack of working hours and income, lack of legally mandated severance pay, health and safety concerns

Author: Electronics Watch and Sedane Labour Resource Center

"The Impact of COVID-19 on Electronics Workers in Indonesia", 23 June 2020

Alfian Al-Ayubby Pelu, LIPS (Sedane Labour Resource Center) [an Electronics Watch monitoring partner, reports on impacts of COVID-19 on electronics workers in Indonesia:]

  • ... Working hours in some factories have been reduced, therefore income is decreased ...
  • Some factories have been closed down, such as in Batam, one of the important electronics production hubs where 13,000 workers have been laid off. Many of these workers didn’t receive the severance pay as mandated by law. …
  • Some other factories continue to operate such as in West Java province, … however in these factories, Covid prevention mechanisms are mostly ignored. Many workers are not given proper personal protective equipment, workers testify that the production lines continues as normally, with limited physical distancing among workers. … A facial mask is only provided every month. Many workers have to purchase masks themselves … 

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23 June 2020

The impact of Covid-19 on electronics supply chains: from mining to manufacturing

Author: Electronics Watch and Fair ICT Flanders

"Webinar: The Impact of Covid-19 on Electronics: from mining, to manufacturing and public procurement", 23 June 2020

This webinar [from Electronics Watch and Fair ICT Flanders] ... shine[s] a spotlight on the impact on workers in different parts of the electronics supply chain, from miners and mining communities in Latin America to manufacturing workers across Asia.

[Charlotte Christiaens (CATAPA, Belgium) report that impacts on workers and communities in the mining sector in Latin America include

  • inability to adhere to social distancing measures (due to conditions in] dorms, cafeteria, buses, bus terminals, etc) ...
  • no/limited tests
  • suspension of working contracts ...
  • no incomes
  • [lack of access to hospitals] ...
  • shut down [of] legitimate protests [and] great risks for social leaders and human rights defenders

Additional speakers include Kim Thi Thu Ha (Center for Development and Integration, Vietnam), Mike Kilner (London Universities Purchasing Consortium, UK), Omana George (Electronics Watch, Hong Kong).

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29 May 2020

Honeywell did not respond

Author: Honeywell

29 May 2020

India: Factory threatens non-payment of wages to electronics' workers not returning to work despite unsafe working conditions

Author: Electronics Watch

COVID-19 Updates from Monitoring Partners, 29 May 2020

Aneesh Manjunath who works for Cividep India, a labour rights organisation, and is an Electronics Watch monitoring partner, explains the impact of the pandemic on electronics workers in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu.

"Sriperumbudur is a major electronics and manufacturing hub where Electronics Watch has been conducting research projects and training programmes for workers since 2006. In the initial days of the lockdown, as per government directives, all electronics companies had closed operations in mid-March… Most workers within the state had returned to their towns and villages while a number of interstate migrants had to stay back as movement to other states was restricted. By and large, workers were paid their wages for March and April. In early May, factories began to reopen as lockdown restrictions were eased and production had resumed to a limited extent by mid-May…

Last week… over 40 workers in one particular factory had contracted the virus and the factory has since shut down operations temporarily. According to local trade unions, the factory had been operating beyond the one-third capacity mandated by the government and workers were also… told that they would not receive wages for May if they did not report to work... [creating] a situation where they were forced to return to work. There have also been reports of confirmed cases in other companies in Sriperumbudur and the region has also been notified as a red zone with maximum containment measures in place…

Another alarming development in the past few weeks has been the move to suspend various labour laws in several states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, among others. This has been justified as necessary to revive industrial activity and attract more foreign investment… The… labour laws [proposed to be suspended] deal with occupational safety, health and hygiene, fair compensation [and] freedom of association… If implemented, the changes would also allow for higher labour flexibility and a hire-and-fire policy to be adopted, along with increased working hours and overtime. Most significantly, the existing judicial mechanisms will be made redundant from the perspective of labour-related disputes and in the absence of essential labour laws, which were otherwise poorly implemented, workers will be left with no legal avenue to avail of entitlements or bring up labour-related grievances..."

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29 May 2020

Skyworks did not respond

Author: Skyworks

Company response
+ Español - Hide

Author: LG Electronics

...Para LG Electronics, lo más importante es la seguridad de nuestros colaboradores y socios comerciales. Trabajamos con las autoridades locales y federales, para garantizar la seguridad en todos los sentidos en nuestra planta de Mexicali (además de las plantas de Reynosa y Monterrey), así como en las oficinas corporativas en el Estado de México. Hemos dado seguimiento específico y atención a los derechos laborales y la salud de nuestros colaboradores manteniendo los protocolos necesarios implementados por las autoridades.


Desde el principio de esta emergencia en México, hemos llevado a cabo el trabajo remoto a todos nuestros colaboradores de las oficinas corporativas en el Estado de México (Tlalnepantla) así como de las del interior del país. Todo nuestro personal en situación de vulnerabilidad (hipertensión, diabetes, embarazo…etc) se mandó a sus casas a trabajo remoto desde el inicio, en el caso de promotoría que son por outsourcing a cursos en línea. 

Es importante destacar que LG se ha comprometido en mantener al 100% todos los puestos de trabajo así como el salario íntegro de nuestros colaboradores respetando sus derechos laborales y en apego a lo que dictan las autoridades, lo cual ha sucedido de manera puntual...

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28 May 2020

Vietnam: Electronics workers face non-payment of wages, inability to return home, and lack of subsistence

Author: Electronics Watch

COVID-19 Updates from Monitoring Partners, 28 May 2020

An anonymous migrant worker manufacturing electronic components for a foreign direct investment enterprise in Vietnam describes the impact of COVID-19 on migrant workers' lives. 

"COVID… directly impacts the lives of migrant workers… Enterprises can neither export their goods nor import raw materials for production because the majority of materials for producing electronic components are made in China. Electronics companies’ partners… cut… about 30-50% of orders.

- Therefore… workers’ income falls… sharply… [to] about 50-60%… Some enterprises have to close... workshops or factories temporarily and offer workers to take [time] off without salary payment from one to three months.

- Workers cannot return to their hometowns due to social distancing restrictions. They are also afraid of bringing illness to their family members so they had to stay in their renting houses...

- Food prices rise high… Only some landlords… reduce [rental housing] prices… [Workers] have to save as much as they can… to buy foods [by] using less electricity and water and calling for their families to send rice and foods.

In order to protect workers better in the context of the COVID-19 crisis I think we need to carry out some solutions…

- Firstly, the Labor Confederation needs to… quickly implement the social protection package, monitor enterprises’ compliance… if [companies] unilaterally terminate labor contracts with unwarranted reasons such as arbitrarily organising a draw to choose who will be laid off or requiring workers to sign unpaid leave agreements. 

- Secondly, Enterprises need to support workers in order to ensure a minimum living standard… adapt to this situation, and stabilise production when the pandemic is over. 

- Thirdly, electronics enterprises’ partners need to consider the effects on workers in the whole supply chain, to ensure not to cancel… or suddenly reduce orders, and also need to care for employees working in production facilities. Finally, the Labor Confederation…, People’s Committees, and leaders of residential areas need to encourage landlords to reduce rental housing prices, electricity prices and water prices…”

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25 May 2020

Italy: Electronics firm lays off 190 workers despite government support and lay-off ban

Author: IndustriALL

"Electronics multinational Jabil fires 190 Italian workers during pandemic", 25 May 2020

US headquartered electronics multinational Jabil [one of the world's largest electronics manufacturing multinationals] announced that it was making 350 out of the 700 workers at the Marcianise plant [in Southern Italy] redundant. After 160 workers took voluntary redundancy or were redeployed elsewhere, 190 workers find themselves on the streets from ... Monday 25 May.

This is despite a support package from the Italian government that bans layoffs until mid-August... The Italian government... package includes a wage guarantee fund, grants to business, and moratoria on tax payments, utility bills and retrenchments. The company made commitments to the Ministry of Economic Development, which it has failed to honour.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliates FIOM-CGIL, FIM-CISL and UILM have reacted by pledging an indefinite strike. Unions are ... calling for a response from the government....

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