Freely chosen employment: a focus of EICC Code of Conduct latest version


Background story: The majority of our blog posts deals with CSR topics; we write about the latest developments in this field and try to relate it to a company’s daily business. Our background stories have a different perspective: Here, we explain trends, scientific background and societal implications of corporate sustainability – sometimes with a personal touch.

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The EICC Code of Conduct – 5.1 version was released in January 2016 to include stringent requirements on the fight against forced and bonded labor.

A sectorial initiative to tackle CSR issues

The EICC is a nonprofit coalition of electronics companies comprised of more than 100 electronics companies with combined annual revenue of over $3 trillion, directly employing more than 5.5 million people. The companies are committed to supporting the rights and wellbeing of workers and communities worldwide affected by the global electronics supply chain.[1]

To do so, a Code of Conduct was set up, and the coalition provides training and assessment tools regarding environmental, social and ethical responsibilities.

The Code of Conduct was launched in 2004, and has been adapted and changed to match the evolution of these themes. The version 5.1 has been released on the 1st of January 2016 and will come into force from the 1st of April 2016.

Change in freely chosen employment section

The only change from version 5.0 released in November 2014 to the version 5.1 of January 2016 focuses on freely chosen employment (section A,1).

The version 5.0 states that “workers shall not be required to pay employers or agents recruitment fees or other aggregate fees in excess of one month’s salary. All fees charged to workers must be disclosed and fees in excess of one month’s salary must be returned to the worker.”, whereas the 2016 version reads that “workers shall not be required to pay employers’ or agents’ recruitment fees or other related fees for their employment. If any such fees are found to have been paid by workers, such fees shall be repaid to the worker.”

This means that the requirements are strengthening. Before, there was a limit which is no longer tolerated. Our understanding is that a common practice of forced labor is indeed that employees have to pay a fee to be employed, either to the employer or to a recruiting agent. However, they usually cannot afford it right away, so they remain in debt to the employer or recruiting agent, so they have to keep working in the company at least to be able to pay this employment fee.

This more stringent requirement can be explained in a larger context where forced labor is still existing. For instance, the NGO Verité’s two-year study of labor conditions in electronics manufacturing in Malaysia found that “one in three foreign workers surveyed in Malaysian electronics was in a condition of forced labor.”[2]

Tackling forced labor issues

There are different ways to tackle this existing issue:

  • Risk-mapping to identify where cases are most likely to happen
  • Action plans accordingly
  • Actions can feature:
    • Specific HR procedures preventing unreasonable restrictions on entering or existing the facilities, forbidding employment fees, prohibiting the confiscation of immigrant documents
    • Training of HR population in this sense
    • Whistle blowing system to detect and treat such cases
    • Audits to check the status of such actions

For more information, please contact us at info@dfge.de or read the EICC Code of conduct: http://www.eiccoalition.org/media/docs/EICCCodeofConduct5_1_English.pdf

[1] http://www.eiccoalition.org/about/

[2] http://www.verite.org/research/electronicsmalaysia

image source: https://pixabay.com/en/document-agreement-documents-sign-428334/

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