The Good Electronics Network is an organisation that says it ‘brings together networks, organisations and individuals that are concerned about human rights, including labour rights, and sustainability issues in the global electronics supply chain.’
It has published a company profile on Nokia spanning nearly two decades, and claims that workers’ rights were ‘systematically disregarded’ by the Finnish giant.
Noting Nokia’s rise, fall and resurrection, Good Electronics says ‘the profile reads as an alternative corporate history from a workers’ perspective’ and claims that ‘workers’ interests never played a role of significance for Nokia, despite it being one of the world’s most successful electronics companies ever.’
Now that Nokia has announced its intention to acquire Alcatel-Lucent and will be back in business in a big way, Good Electronics says ‘it’s high time for Nokia to start taking workers’ rights seriously.’
Good Electronics says the 19-page report, which can be downloaded in full here, ‘tracks the main decisions made by Nokia throughout three phases of its recent history: leading the mobile phone business (1998-2007), the years of decline (2007-2013) and the sale of Nokia’s mobile phone business to Microsoft (2013-2015).’
In addition, the report ‘illustrates how workers at Nokia’s manufacturing sites and its supplier companies were systematically unable to benefit from the company’s success, while facing the most difficult consequences of the company’s decline.’
The report was jointly drafted by SOMO, CEREAL-Mexico and Cividep-India, and puts a ‘particular emphasis is put on the lives of Nokia workers in Reynosa (Mexico) and Sriperumbudur (India).’
Nokia’s ‘golden years’ were between 1998 and 2007, which the report says was ‘characterised by a rush for the cheapest production locations.’
The report says that workers in Nokia’s own factories and in those of Nokia’s suppliers faced poor employment and working conditions, as well as structural job insecurity and recurrent job losses due to Nokia continuously shifting production to countries with ever lower wages.
In stark contrast to poor worker conditions during the ‘bad times’ were ‘huge bonuses for investors and management’, something illustrated when thousands of workers lost their jobs in 2014 after Microsoft’s takeover of Nokia, ‘because production was shifted away from India to Vietnam. In the meantime, the proceeds from the Microsoft-Nokia deal were used to pay premiums to investors and bonuses to management’ to the value of US $5.44 billion.
Pauline Overeem of the Good Electronics Network said: “With the recent takeover of Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia is becoming the largest supplier of network equipment (such as masts) that connect mobile phones, tablets and computers. We hope this next phase for Nokia will be one in which labour rights are truly respected.”
Jasoon Chelat of Cividep in India said: "The Nokia plant in Sriperumbudur was projected as one of the most significant instances of big-league company investing in a Special Economic Zone in India. Although the first signs of trouble in Nokia's presence in Sriperumbudur is often cited as tax issues with the Government, a closer look into its operations brings to the fore a lack of regard for labour rights."