The strength of the Electronics Industry in India is about 4.5 million employees and the Government’s National Policy on Electronics seeks to increase this number to 28 million by 2020. Positive projections about the growth of the sector although, is in stark contrast with the wages and living conditions of workers employed in the manufacturing units set up by multinational companies across the country. The major issues included low wages, lack of representation of workers in the factory and a lack of awareness among workers on labour legislations and occupational health hazards.

Such issues are prominent in the mobile phone manufacturing hub of South India – the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Sriperumbudur, Chennai. The shutting down of the Nokia SEZ, which had facilitated the setting up of several of its supplier units in this area, brought to fore the importance of safeguarding worker’s rights. The SEZ also houses units of several companies such as Motorola, Samsung, Dell, Flextronics etc. To address workers issues in this growing sector, Cividep engages with workers through several projects. The main focus has been to increase worker’s awareness about labour laws, involve stakeholders from different sides of the industry to evaluate and address challenging labour issues in the sector and to keep abreast of these issues through regular research projects based in the area.


Good Electronics Network: Information, Capacity Building and Engagement with the Electronic Industry, for Sustainability and Human Rights

Challenge: Lack of awareness on worker’s right and absence of training methodologies
Strategy: Workers engagement through education, study circles, and legal assistance
The GoodElectronics Network started a Five Year EC funded programme aimed at addressing labour and environment issues in the Electronics Industry. Cividep India is a partner of this programme, along with project partners SOMO (the Netherlands), CEREAL (Mexico) and IndustriALL Global Union (Switzerland). Cividep implements activities in India for the GoodElectronics network, such as worker education materials and programmes and trainings on labour rights, capacity building for civil society organisations and meetings with multiple stake-holders of the electronics sector. Handbooks have been published as workers education series on labour laws, which have also been translated in the local language for the workers. Study circles for workers have been organised on a regular basis on topics of interest and trainings have been organised on labour rights – such as freedom of association, social benefits and industrial disputes, occupational health and safety, and issues related to women workers. Cividep has also conducted a legal assistance camp for workers with the help of the Legal Aid Committee of Sriperumbudur, and focus group discussions on the Nokia Closure, schemes offered and the overall concerns and impact.

Electronics Workers Resource Center

Challenge: Lack of a common ground for workers participation and exchange
Strategy: Establishment of a Workers’ Resource Centre for training purposes, grievance redressal, health and safety awareness and stakeholder engagement
Cividep established a Workers’ Resource Centre (WRC) in Sriperumbudur in 2013. The Workers Resource Center (WRC) is supported by The Foundation for Human Rights at Work (FDHT), and serves as a meeting place for workers to participate in study circle that deal with issues of interest to workers such as labour rights and grievance redressal mechanisms.
We have conduct trainings for workers on Occupational Health and Safety where we distribute manuals on Occupational Health to the workers and strive to make workers aware of occupational hazards, their effects and precautionary measures. A round table on e-waste was held in 2015 to engage with multiple stakeholders such as Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and e-waste recyclers

Research and Worker Education Programs

Challenge: To understand the mobile manufacturing industry and working conditions
Strategy: Profiling of companies, policies, and labour standards, Discussions and interviews with Workers, and Conducting studies on working conditions in collaboration with our partners 

From 2009 to 2012, Cividep in partnership with like-minded organisations has conducted several research projects to lay a solid foundation in understand the issues faced by workers in the electronic sector. Three key reports were published in this period.Corporate Geography, Labour Conditions and Environmental Standards in the Mobile Phone Manufacturing Industry in India – in partnership with SOMO (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations), Cividep published this report that served as a groundwork for future activities undertaken by the organisation in the area. The report dealt with an overview of the main players in the industry including Company Profiles and Codes of conduct, Government policies as well as labour standards and working conditions of workers employed in these companies.

Changing Industrial Relations in India’s Mobile Phone Manufacturing Industry. Cividep and SOMO reported on the shift in the industrial atmosphere in the SEZ towards Unionisation. The report focussed on worker agitations that had taken place before and after the formation of unions in the SEZ.

Phony Equality. In 2011, Cividep, along with Finnwatch and SOMO, published this report on labour standards of mobile phone manufacturers in India. The report examines how the unionisation of workers in major units in SEZ had affected the labour standards and working conditions in the industry. The report deals with the responsiveness of companies to worker demands in the background of unionisation, wage agreements between unions and companies and the use of contract labour and ‘trainees’ in the factory units.

Focus Group Discussions and Face to Face Interviews were also conducted and the data collected from these interactions resulted in Shiny Phone, Paltry Pay, a report (in collaboration with Suedwind) on low wages and living conditions of workers in the Nokia SEZ and Working and Living Conditions in SEZs, a comparative study between working conditions in SEZs in India and Indonesia, in 2012.