Leadership
Electronics Industry Launches Factory Worker Protection Program in Malaysia

The Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), a nonprofit coalition of leading electronics companies dedicated to supply chain responsibility, on Wednesday announced the launch of a foreign migrant worker protection pilot program that aims to improve communications in electronics factories by providing workers with more effective ways to report issues related to social, environmental and ethical responsibility.

The program, called “Suara Kita”, which is Malay for "Our Voice," will be piloted in Malaysia — given the sizable industry presence and large number of foreign workers there — from September 2015 through December 2016 with plans for it to be rolled out globally afterward.

The initiative aims to improve worker-management communication in factories, EICC says. It also builds off existing company training, grievance and helpline efforts.

Suara Kita will inform the larger EICC grievance management strategy globally, as well as complement other efforts to implement new standards governing foreign migrant workers as outlined in the EICC Code of Conduct and regulations such as the U.S. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) on Ending Trafficking in Persons.

Key elements of the pilot include:

  • a comprehensive worker survey, to inform training and establish a baseline to measure against;
  • a worker-management communication program, based on EICC training, specific to foreign migrant workers and their employers;
  • worker education on effective grievance mechanisms; and
  • the development and launch of a worker helpline to address issues that are not resolved at the factory level.

Foreign migrant workers across industries worldwide face unique challenges due to language barriers, complex legal environments, government regulatory barriers, and a reliance on labor brokers and recruitment agencies, EICC says.

In January, EICC announced that it would conduct shadow audits and increase its industry and government engagement in Malaysia to further combat forced labor.

Earlier this year, EICC — whose members include Apple, Cisco, Dell, Eastman Kodak, HP, Microsoft and many more — made changes to its Code designed to protect workers and a membership vote to ban all recruitment fees paid by workers. The Code added several new provisions to further address issues that can lead to forced labor, including prohibiting the holding of passports and other key worker documents, unreasonable restrictions on movement and access to basic liberties. It even requires that workers are provided with a written employment agreement in their native language prior to departing from their country of origin.

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