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Ericsson in child labour scandal

Ericsson in child labour scandal

Published: 14 May 2008 13:43 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 May 2008 13:43 GMT+02:00

Swedish telecom giant Ericsson has promised swift action after revelations of dangerous working conditions and child labour at factories operated by its suppliers in Bangladesh.

“The poor conditions in Bangladesh are unacceptable and we deeply regret that we haven’t had better internal inspections,” Ericsson’s head of communications, Henry Sténson, said in a statement.

A report to be aired on Wednesday night by the Sveriges Television's investigative news programme Uppdrag Granskning examines factories in Bangladesh which supply components to Ericsson and its Norwegian counterpart Telenor.

Journalists who visited suppliers found employees working without protective equipment near zinc baths kept at 460 degrees Celsius, workers between 14 and 17-years-old, as well as untreated wastewater, according to the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, which had access to an advance screening of the report.

Images reveal that workers tending to acid baths only put on helmets and masks when the television crew brings out its cameras. After the cameras are put away, so is the protective gear.

The family of a 22-year-old worker who died after falling into a galvanizing tub was paid the equivalent of 22,000 kronor ($3,600) and made to sign a paper promising to release the supplier from any responsibility for the man's death.

Ericsson has seen the report and confirmed the factories’ poor working conditions and sloppy environmental controls.

The company says it has broken off relations with three of the four suppliers featured in the Uppdrag Granskning report, but has chosen to work together with the fourth—Confidence Steel—to establish a series of measures to rectify the problems.

“It’s good that we’ve been able to see these images because we can now correct the poor conditions and moreover have a better internal focus on these issues,” said Sténson.

“We will not give up on our code of conduct and we will increase awareness internally of the demands we place on our suppliers.”

Ericsson has also promised to initiate a program to improve conditions at other suppliers in Bangladesh, and plans to perform a comprehensive review of all its suppliers in the region.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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