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Electronics Production | April 03, 2006

Perlos and Foxconn workers in protest

About 120 employees of Perlos and Foxconn - important subcontractors in Nokia's global production chain - held last week, in Helsinki, a protest meeting outside of the building where Nokia's shareholders had their annual meeting.
The participants were critical on and angry for the heavy pressure Nokia puts on its subcontractors to cut their costs, leading to inhuman treatment of subcontractors' personnel.

In their statement the protest meeting participants stated this: "At Perlos and Foxconn personnel criticism of what we feel is unreasonable corporate reconstruction has been aimed at their own employers, but it has gradually begun to emerge that Nokia would be the more proper object of such criticism."

A workers' protest meeting, critisising Nokia's corporate behaviour, is a new phenomenon in Finland, the country of Nokia's origin and the country where almost half of Nokia's personnel works. The protest meeting is a symptom, among trade union activists and leaders of the Chemical Workers' Union and of the Union of Salaried Employees TU, of a more radical approach towards negative impacts of globalisation.

The whole statement, adopted by the protest meeting participants, is as follows:

The workers and staff at Perlos and Foxconn point out that a large number of Finnish subcontracting companies employing thousands of people have been engaged in the creation of the Nokia success story. Personnel at many of the subcontracting companies have been brutally dismissed in recent years.

At this very moment negotiations are being held at Perlos and Foxconn threatening to lead directly to thousands of us losing our jobs. At least as many jobs were lost last year at these two companies alone.

At Perlos and Foxconn personnel criticism of what we feel is unreasonable corporate reconstruction has been aimed at their own employers, but it has gradually begun to emerge that Nokia would be the more proper object of such criticism. Our primary question is whether Nokia's strategy has changed to such an extent that its large-scale production will be discontinued in Finland, and its subcontracting along with it. Are research and development gradually going to be outsourced as well, along with production?

We know that costs, and labour costs in particular, are lower and profits are higher in developing countries than here. But such low costs are based on harsh treatment of personnel, even on exploitation. In China, for instance, there exist features reminiscent of forced labour camps. Labour laws are not monitored, and working hours and conditions are demeaning - including those in the mobile phone industry. The trade union movement there is an insignificant and perceptibly shackled arm of the state and the party. Environmental problems pile up beyond control while corruption is rife. So these are the circumstances that entice western investors and executives, and it is to conditions such as these that Nokia's subcontractors are outsourcing work from Finland!

We cannot find it acceptable that the working people of the "old industrial countries" of the west and the north alone should pick up the bill for globalisation. We have created profitable jobs in Finland in harmony with the idea of sustainable development, and we are entitled to defend them.

We point out that moderate income policy settlements are a major foundation on which solid corporate balance sheets are constructed and secured. By way of national legislation, favourable and stable conditions have been created for corporate operations. Here, the companies enjoy the security provided by the rule of law along with social stability. They have the availability of well-trained labour and they have the support of the community for research and development. In return for all this, it is reasonable to demand that companies and investors maintain a responsible attitude towards their own personnel.

In the global economy, the shouldering of responsibility is no longer just a local or a national matter. While corporations are entitled increasingly to move abroad in search of cheap labour, markets and raw materials, a sense of responsibility is requisite in such new target countries. In addition to recognition of human rights and protection of the environment, corporations must globally give their personnel the entitlement to organise and safeguard their rights. It is futile for the corporations to retreat behind any national legislation while in many of the countries of cheap production the labour laws are in no way enforced.

We hope that Nokia will consider what social responsibility means to it. And that social responsibility is not just another term for the notion of profitable business.

We look forward to Nokia investing in long-term operations in Finland.

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