Labour standards of mobile phone manufacturers in India

This report focuses on labour rights in the mobile phone industry in India and addresses working conditions in export processing zones (known as Special Economic Zones in India). Th e aim of this research is to get an understanding of unionisation and precarious employment in four mobile phone factories, namely Nokia, Salcomp, Flextronics and Foxconn, based in Sriperumbudur around Chennai, Tamil Nadu. One of the recent developments in the industry has been the unionisation of Nokia in India.

Over the past decade, the market for mobile phones has increased rapidly. In 2010 alone, 1.6 billion handsets were sold worldwide, up 32 per cent from 2009. While the Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia still led with sales of 461 million handsets, its market share dropped quite substantially (from 31 per cent to 25 per cent between early 2010 and 2011).1 However, Nokia is still a leading player in the mobile phone industry in India. Th e Sriperumbudur plant has become the company’s largest factory surpassing even the volume of Nokia’s plants in China – making industrial relations at Nokia in India of critical signifi cance. Between 2008 and 2011, the makeITfair organisations have released several reports about the working conditions in more than ten mobile phone (or their parts) factories in India, China and the Philippines. Th e reports revealed severe violations of labour laws and rights, although important improvements have recently taken place in China. Other makeITfair reports have addressed the working conditions in the manufacturing of other gadgets; the early stages of the supply chain, namely the appalling working conditions at the mines that extract valuable metals for mobile phones and other electronic equipment; and the negative eff ects of dumping e-waste in developing countries. In this report, the makeITfair project focuses on labour rights in the mobile phone industry in India and addresses the conditions in export processing zones. Electronics companies offi cially state that union rights must be respected in their supply chains, but most of the production is located in export processing zones (known as Special Economic Zones in India) where those rights are systematically violated or hindered. Th e right to organise is a fundamental right, enabling workers to voice their grievances and negotiate improvements of their labour conditions.

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