12/04/2011: Hitachi, save your face, drop the case!

Hitachi, save your face, drop the case!

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Japanese electronics company Hitachi is failing to uphold human rights throughout its supply chain  – while migrant workers are mistreated and Malaysian human rights defenders exposing this behaviour are facing aggressive legal action, Hitachi keeps refusing to use the means at its disposal to make its supplier Asahi Kosei drop the legal case and respect workers' rights.

Update 27 june 2011: Electronics company sues human rights defender for $3.3 million

Take action today and write to Hitachi

At the Asahi Kosei operated plant in Malaysia migrant workers from a number of Asian countries are set to work, including workers from Burma. These workers are generally treated abominably, having to put up with disproportional wage deductions, lack of sick leave, withholding of their passports, retaliatory confiscation of their belongings if they protest, etc. In January 2011, a group of 31 Burmese workers protested about their labour and employment conditions. Despite having valid work permits and contracts subsequently two of them were taken under false pretence to the airport to be deported - but managed to escape at the very last moment. At the time of writing, Thiha Soe and Aung San are in hiding.

Malaysian human rights defender Charles Hector and fellow labour rights activists concerned themselves about the treatment of the Burmese workers deployed at Asahi Kosei’s Selangor plant. In February 2011, Charles Hector wrote a letter to Asahi Kosei. When the company failed to respond, Hector posted information received from the affected workers on his weblog.

In retaliation, Asahi Kosei has taken aggressive legal action against Charles Hector, accusing him of libel, and demanding an outrageous sum for compensation ($ 3.3 million). Several hearings have taken place - the dates for the full trial are expected to be fixed shortly.

In support of migrant workers and human rights defenders, tens of labour rights groups from all over the world have expressed their concerns over Asahi Kosei’s treatment of the Burmese workers and the aggressive legal action against Charles Hector. Click here for the public statement that was signed by more than 80 organisations.

Until this date, Asahi Kosei, Hitachi, as well as other buyers, refuse any dialogue with the labour groups and migrant advocacy groups concerned. There has been no improvement of the treatment of the Burmese workers after Asahi Kosei Malaysia filed the lawsuit against Charles Hector.

GoodElectronics, makeITfair as well as other labour rights groups have written to brands known to be sourcing or to have sourced from Asahi Kosei Malaysia. To see this letter, click here. So far, Philips, Seagate and Toshiba responded, with –unsubstantiated- claims that they are no longer sourcing from Asahi Kosei Malaysia. Their companies’ names are, however, still listed on Asahi Kosei’s website. Other buyers did not respond.

At its 65th Annual General Meeting, held on 12 March 2011 in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian Bar unanimously carried a motion in support of human rights defender Charles Hector referring to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. To read more click here.

For more information on case against Charles Hector click here.

GoodElectronics is now specifically addressing Hitachi as a major and well-known buyer of Asahi Kosei. On its website Hitachi emphatically presents its corporate social responsibility vision, speaking of “the building of a prosperous and vibrant society”, of “disclosing information openly and transparently in order to maintain and develop a relationship of trust with its various stakeholders, and acting responsibly towards them through various means of communication”, and about “undertaking business based on the principles of fairness and sincerity, acting with the utmost respect for human rights and pursuing a high sense of corporate ethics in the global business market which encompasses diverse cultures, morals, ethics, and legal systems”. Moreover, Hitachi is member of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and has a responsibility to live up to the EICC code of conduct.

Take action today; write to Hitachito say you expect Hitachi to:
  • use its leverage as customer of Asahi Kosei to immediately and unconditionally drop the legal case against Charles Hector
  • ensure that labour rights and standards are upheld throughout the Hitachi supply chain
  • migrant workers ‘s rights are upheld and respected in Hitachi’s supply chain
  • ensure justice is done to Thiha Soe and Aung San and the other affected workers
  • respect human rights defenders.

Please sign the protest letter. This letter will go out to the Hitachi for its refusal to take sufficient action on this issue, thereby causing harm to migrant workers set to work at Asahi Kosei in Malaysia, as well as to human rights defender Charles Hector.

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