IN MEXICAN CRISIS, THE WORKERS SAVE THE ELECTRONICS INDUSTRY BUT IN RETURN, LABOR CONDITIONS WORSEN
What has happened to workers in the supply chains of Nokia, Philips, Panasonic, IBM, HP, Lenovo, Sanmina, Jabil and Flextronics in Mexican factories during 2008 and 2009? 6000 jobs lost, massive dismissals, a 10% reduction in wages, an increase in temporary three-month and monthly contracts for workers in the industry from 40 to 60%.
And what has happened to the companies’ production in the same years of crisis? In the last quarter of 2009, Sanmina reported growth of 20% with regard to their numbers in 2008; Nokia has recovered the number of workers they lost in 2008, but now with 75% temporary workers contracted by Manpower; Flextronics has announced 1000 new jobs and Jabil increased their workers 136%; and HP and IBM announced new investment projects in 2010.
In the worst year of the crisis, the companies have won and the workers have lost. This third report of CEREAL, “Labor rights in a time of crisis” analyzes this paradox: ultimately, who has paid the cost of the crisis?
Since 2008, the almost 200 companies of the electronics sector in Mexico suffered the negative effects of the world crisis. Most of the companies experienced a drop in production of on average 40%. That resulted in massive lay-offs of workers and the closing of many factories.
During the first months of 2008, Sanmina SCI and Flextronics laid off more than 4000 workers from their factories in Guadalajara, Mexico; in December of the same year, Nokia dismissed 1500 workers from one of their factories in Reynosa, near the northern border of Mexico; in May 2009, Sony closed a TV factory in Mexicali, and another 600 workers lost their jobs. Other companies, as Foxconn and Jabil also reduced their workforce and closed some of their production lines. At the end of the first half of 2009 more than 6000 workers from the electronics sector had lost their jobs.
In these circumstances, rights to stable employment were weakened. On the pretext of the crisis, some companies used the situation to sack thousands of workers with no compensation payment, and others were hired again but with a lower salary and greater workload.
It was this situation in the electronics sector, that led to more than 4000 workers in 2008 and 2009 reporting employment instability, sexual harassment, discrimination, toxics exposure, accidents in their workplace, factories stopping with no agreement nor salary to the workers for those days, people sent to their houses to “rest” using vacation time, obstacles to collective organization and freedom of association and lower salaries. These are the main violations reported by workers that the Labor Action and Reflection Center (CEREAL) have documented in its third report about working conditions in the electronic industry.
We know that these violations are not new ones, and that is why we want to focus on them with greater concern and detail. This is the case of Daniel:
“I am 53 years old. For three years, I have worked as a driver of a cargo car in the technological campus of IBM in Guadalajara (Mexico). The company, which I work for has been hired as supplier of cargo services by IBM, and is called Apolotran. Our working conditions are extremely bad. We work 16 hours a day, but my salary is as if I work only 8 hours a day. They pay me 120 pesos a day (about 10 USD a day). To complete these hours of work, I have to leave my house at 6 am and return at 12 am.”
Adriana, another worker, explains her situation of employment instability:
“My name is Adriana, and I worked for two years for Universal Scientific International (USI) assembling equipment for Lenovo. My wage was 71 pesos a day (5.91 USD a day). My problem was employment instability. During these two years working for USI, I signed monthly contracts, so each month they sacked me and rehired me. Nevertheless, some of these months they didn’t rehire me at the same time they sacked me. They left me some days out of the company, and then, when they wanted, they called me and gave me a new contract.”
From our point of view, as CEREAL, the economic crisis must not be a reason for violating the human rights of the workers. Structural changes are needed in the Mexican electronics industry so we can guarantee that all companies in this sector are socially responsible, even during times of economic crisis. In this 3rd report about the industry, CEREAL also recognizes various recent initiatives that seek to create better jobs creation in the electronics sector in Mexico, these initiatives have come from companies, workers, civil and governmental organizations. The report includes a ranking of companies, made by CEREAL, of the respect for labour rights shown by the companies during 2008 and 2009.
Centro de Reflexión y Acción Laboral (CEREAL)
November 19, 2009.