IT giants criticised for running third world ‘sweatshops’

The OBGYN wants what?!

IT giants HP, IBM and Dell have been criticised for running third world factories blighted by "dire working conditions".

Development agency Cafod says it has obtained proof that IIT workers in Mexico, Thailand and China suffer "harassment, discrimination and intolerable working conditions".

Concerns about poor working conditions and low wages are well understood but Cafod's Clean Up Your Computer report shed light on other less reported but arguably more distasteful work practices, such as discriminatory recruitment procedures and routine humiliation of female workers in some factories.

Complaints, union membership and even pregnancy in the workplaces are not tolerated. Meanwhile wages are pitifully low.

One unpleasant anecdote Cafod uncovered comes from Monica - a worker in Guadalajara, Mexico.

"Monica told Cafod about her recruitment by a contract manufacturer for an assembly line in a company making printers for Hewlett Packard," Cafod said. "Monica says she was forced to strip, including taking off her underwear, then touched in sensitive areas by medical examiners that said they were looking for tattoos. She was made to take a pregnancy test."

But this isn't the only place with strange goings on.

"Cafod saw interview lists used by recruitment agencies supplying workers for an IBM production line. Reasons for rejection included: 'Homosexual, more than two tattoos, father is a lawyer, has brought labour claims, worked for a union, pregnancy, does not agree with IBM policies.'"

In Thailand, a worker making hard drives for Dell is paid the equivalent of £2.50 per day. Michael Dell, the CEO of Dell, earned £134,000 per day last year.

The agency wants IT giants to adopt codes of conduct based on UN standards. Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Dell have seen the evidence compiled by Cafod, which has welcomed their initial responses. These responses have been included in Cafod's report, which can be found here. ®

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