Hewlett-Packard is joining the ranks of businesses developing new policies for overseas suppliers and the workers they employ. The company recently announced it will take action against the Chinese facilities in its supply chain that fail to properly protect workers and implement responsible, ethical business practices. The announcement comes just weeks after rival Apple conducted internal audits only to find its Chinese suppliers violating employment laws and environmental regulations, leading Apple to announce new standards all its facilities will now be required to follow.
Worker rights a major concern
According to The New York Times, many Chinese facilities rely on high school students, vocational students and temporary workers to ensure they can meet production demands when they receive large orders they would otherwise be unable to fill.
One of the biggest components of HP's new standards will address the employment of student and temporary workers and enforce standards in regard to local employment regulations employee treatment by facilities. HP will stress to its suppliers that all employees must work voluntarily, be free to leave as they see fit and air their grievances without fear of retaliation. Facilities must also strictly abide by local workplace regulations and enforce legislation that dictates the number of hours an employee can work, the legal employment age and working conditions.
Practices in regard to student employment will also be updated and strictly enforced. Many students have complained that when placed in factories, the tasks they were assigned had no relevance to their degree programs. For this reason, HP has mandated students working in facilities must complete work in an area related to their field of study and should undertake only responsibilities that complement the degree they are in the process of obtaining. Factories must also limit the number of student workers they take on at one time and rework their hiring strategies to ensure their workforce primarily consists of full time, non-student workers.
"HP has a history of leadership in proactively addressing labor issues and driving supply chain improvements," said Tony Prophet, senior vice president of HP's worldwide supply chain operations. "We have worked closely with leading Chinese stakeholders to develop our new student and temporary worker guidelines to ensure the highest standards of ethical workforce management."
In addition to worker issues, HP has announced it will also take action against those suppliers that refuse to comply with laws that mandate working hour limits and implement an auditing system to better help it ensure its facilities are compliant with expectations.