HP Sets New Labor Guidelines in China

Published on February 8, 2013
by Arik Hesseldahl

HPSeeking to take a lead on ongoing issues around labor standards in the electronics industry in China, Hewlett-Packard today issued some new standards and guidelines for companies in that country that handle its manufacturing.

The big change addresses student labor. It has long been a common practice among the third-party manufacturing companies known in industry parlance as Original Device Manufacturers or ODMs, to employ students to meet temporary spikes in work at factories. Schools are sometimes ordered to put their students to work by local governments.

HP has pretty much put its foot down on this, saying that all work must be voluntary, and students should be free to choose not to work, or to quit if they’re unhappy. Additionally, when any students do work, the job must be relevant to their studies. The number of student workers has also been limited.

As the electronics industry has shifted to use manufacturing companies in China, Western companies from countries with tougher labor standards have been under pressure from human rights groups to improve conditions of workers there.

Apple has over the years taken a great deal of heat for its relationship with Foxconn, the company that manufactures the iPad and iPhone. Apple responded by pressing Foxconn for changes, and has published an annual review documenting workplace violations of its standards, and actions taken to correct them.

HP said the suppliers were told of the new guidelines today, and are being asked to comply with them immediately, and that it will audit their compliance regularly.

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