Last week, Hewlett Packard issued new guidelines to its China based suppliers regarding the use of temporary and student based labor.  These guidelines were developed to counter the increasing utilization of temporary or student labor to respond to surges in manufacturing activities. These new guidelines stipulate that all work must be voluntary, and comply with local regulations regarding minimum working age and designated working environments.  HP developed these guidelines in tandem with China’s Center for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility and according to its press release, goes beyond regulatory expectations for suppliers.

According to HP, The guidelines focus on four objectives:

  • All student and temporary workers must be voluntary should be free to leave work at any time upon reasonable notice without negative repercussions, along with access to reliable and reprisal-free grievance mechanisms.
  • Local regulations regarding legal working age, work environment, working hours and contract limits for students and temporary workers must be reinforced or exceeded.
  • The number of student workers must be limited to ensure the direct labor force involved in manufacturing is comprised primarily with full-time workers.
  • Student work must complement that student’s primary area of study.

Suppliers are asked to comply with these guidelines immediately and HP indicates that measurement will be based through ongoing social responsibility audits as well as HP KPI’s collected by HP’s procurement teams.  HP is concurrently implementing a new industry-standard audit protocol and collection tool based on recent Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) provisions that have a “zero tolerance” policy for the worst cases of nonconformity to working-hours standards.

Supply Chain Matters has previously noted that for high tech companies, the time has come to factor the new realities for social responsibility. We have already experienced public commitments from high tech OEM’s such as Apple and Samsung regarding supplier social responsibility practices and stepped-up audits and it is good to now see that HP join in these efforts.

It is no secret that high tech OEM’s have demanded the ultimate in supplier flexibility to unplanned product demand or last minute product design changes, while turning a blind eye to supplier labor practices.  As labor standards and associated audits tighten for full-time workers, suppliers became creative and turned to temporary and student centered workers in times of stress.  These new standards are obviously designed to address these abuses.

As in the previous initiatives, financial incentives, adherence and diligent monitoring will be the ultimate test of whether suppliers respond to these types of guidelines.

Bob Ferrari