It is time to act on decent work for all e-waste workers

It is time to act on decent work for all e-waste workers

This video from the Self-Employed Women’s Association in India shows the realities of processing e-waste

The Global Dialogue Forum on Decent Work in the Management of Electrical and Electronic Waste (e-waste) took place from 9 to 11 April 2019. The purpose of the Forum is to discuss current and emerging issues related to the promotion of decent work in the management of e-waste, with the aim of adopting points of consensus, including recommendations for future action by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and its members.

IndustriALL Global Union, under the auspices of the International Trade Union Confederation, coordinated the trade union experts’ participation, drawn from the following six countries; Denmark, India, Japan, Russia, Sweden, and UK.

The e-waste industry is the largest growing waste stream. It is hazardous, complex and expensive to treat in an environmentally sound manner, and there is still a general lack of legislation or enforcement surrounding it in many countries. The majority of work with e-waste in developing countries takes place in the informal economy. Under these circumstances, issues of e-waste workers such as the violation of fundamental workers’ rights, child labour, precarious working conditions and neglect of health and safety have been reported to IndustriALL, especially from developing countries.

The supply chains that feed the ICT electrical and electronics industry are getting longer and more complex as technology pervades every area of our lives, and it will continue to boost the e-waste industry. All stakeholders of the supply chain have a responsibility to provide, and workers have a right to expect, safe, healthy, clean and sustainable jobs. In the Forum, the issues and challenges of the e-waste workers were focused in the circular economy and the ways to advancing decent work in the industry.

James Towers, the vice-chairperson representing the workers’ group

“Workers handling e-waste have no voice, no bargaining power and they are breaking hazardous materials by their hands. Moreover, these workers are unaware of the many risks associated with handling e-waste”, said James Towers, the vice-chairperson representing the workers’ group.

“We, the workers, want a future of work which brings fair working practices and Just Transition for the e-waste workers.”

Kan Matsuzaki, IndustriALL director of ICT, Electrical and Electronics, said:

“This is the first meeting at which employers, governments, and workers deeply shared the issues and challenges on the ground of e-waste, and seriously and constructively reached draft points of consensus which cover the workers’ concerns. This is important step forward towards a sustainable future. It is time to act to achieve decent work for all the e-waste workers!”

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