Foxconn workers in China flee the factory en masse

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This past October there was an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou in China, the largest complex that produces iPhones for Apple, which houses different production plants. At the time, a spokesperson for Apple’s supplier said the impact was manageable and conditions at the factory were stable. However, the company prioritized maintaining production, rather than protecting workers from the outbreak. This unleashed further contagion, to which the company responded with very strict confinement measures.

On Monday, November 7, The Wall Street Journal published a report based on interviews with more than two dozen Foxconn workers and their family members, and the company’s announcements on its WeChat account.

Employees alleged that they began to comply with quarantine on October 7, and that they could not leave their production unit for 27 hours, until they were transferred to a new block of bedrooms in the complex, where they were quarantined for a few days. The workers complained about the lack of food and medicine supplies for the infected people. The situation reached such a point that, on October 28, many decided to leave the factory, on their own feet or using government buses to take them home. Foxconn offered five incentives for people who changed their minds and went back to work.

The iPhone manufacturer has not disclosed the number of COVID cases that have occurred. The company reportedly downplayed the dangers of contracting the virus, sharing statements from medical experts on the female workforce.

Some people did not believe that people returning to work after quarantine had still tested negative. Instead, one rumor claimed it was a plan to mix COVID patients with healthy people to promote herd immunity.

This episode highlights the tension between the need to continue bussiness activities and China’s desire to maintain the 0 COVID-19 policy. In much of the world, it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic is already winding down, but in China the situation is not yet back to normal.

Apple must investigate Zhengzhou's Foxconn factory
CHANGE.ORG -> Apple must investigate Zhengzhou’s Foxconn factory

A petition of signatures has been organized calling for Apple to take its responsibility to fully investigate the incident at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory. We ask these questions to be answered under an independent investigation authorized by Apple:

  1. In mid-October, outbreaks occurred at the factory, creating harsh conditions that affected even those who were not infected. Why did Foxconn wait until October 30 to acknowledge this? What was Foxconn hiding, and why?

  2. How many Foxconn workers contracted COVID-19 in October?

  3. How many Foxconn workers died in October? What are the causes of death?

  4. Who authorized the order prohibiting the workers from leaving the factory in October? What was the reason?

  5. Why were the infected workers not given medical supplies?

  6. Why were there cases in the distribution of essential products in the factory area?

  7. What were Foxconn’s standards for housing conditions for workers during lockdown? How many people were isolated in October?

  8. Why weren’t there enough isolation areas equipped with adequate basic supplies for workers?

  9. How many temporary workers does the Zhengzhou Foxconn factory currently hire? Why don’t they have another type of contract?

  10. Is there evidence of forced labor during the closed loop production period?

  11. Are there workers whose movements have been forcibly restricted during the closed circuit production period? Who were the people who implemented these policies?

Sign the petition here!






How to take care of your cell phone this summer

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Photo by Vanessa Garcia @cc

80% of the carbon footprint of our electronic devices is produced in the production phase, during the extraction of raw materials, transportation, manufacturing of the different parts, assembly, and distribution to points of sale.

In addition, the manufacture of each device requires raw materials, many of which are extracted through mining. Mining has strong environmental impacts, such as loss of biodiversity, soil contamination, deforestation; and also social impacts, such as the displacement of communities living in the territories where these resources are exploited, illegal financing of weapons by armed groups in conflict territories, precarious working conditions in the mines, insecurity and exposure to toxins, and child labor in many cases. In the manufacturing phase, we also found strong violations of human and labor rights, especially among women, who make up the majority of assembly line workers in many factories. Among these violations, we find excessive working hours, precarious wages, repression of unionization, exposure to toxins, among others.

When our devices break down, or we replace them with new ones, the impacts continue: high pollution caused by electronic waste landfills, waste of resources, export of waste to countries without an adequate recycling infrastructure…

For all these reasons, one of the most effective ways for consumers to reduce this carbon footprint, and the impacts associated with the production and consumption of electronic devices, is to try to extend the useful life of the device as much as possible.

On the other hand, during the time we use these devices, we can become very vulnerable in terms of our data privacy if we are not careful about how we access our information on the Internet.

Summer is a time of the year when we can spend more time outdoors doing outdoor activities. Temperatures are higher, and we often spend time cooling off by the water. We also have more free time to connect to the Internet during vacation days, and we may spend a few days visiting another city or country. Summer, therefore, is a time when our data, such as our phones and tablets, are more exposed to different types of risks. From the Just Electronics campaign we share some practical tips to protect our devices and our data!

– Beware of the heat! Most devices are designed to operate between 0 °C and 35 °C, so always leave your device in the shade, and don’t leave it inside the car on very hot days, as heat can damage it! Avoid using it in very hot weather, leaving it switched off, or leaving it on a surface heated by the sun. If it has warmed up, let it cool down in the shade without the casing, and do not put cold air or put it in the fridge… the cold can also damage it.

– Be careful with sand… just as dust is a great enemy of our devices, so is sand! try to use it with clean hands, and protect it from wind gusts.

– Watch out for water: keep your device away from water or use a protective case.

– Turn it off: it is advisable to turn off your device at least once a week, even for a few seconds, and not to keep it always on. This way you will also be able to disconnect more from the Internet and applications, and connect with yourself, the people around you and nature!

– Take care of the battery: do not to let the mobile phone reach too low battery levels, nor overload the battery. The advisable with the current type of batteries is to charge them between 30% and 80%. If you turn off the functionalities that you do not use in every moment (*Bluetooth, Wifi, GPS. etc.) you will avoid the overheating, you will save data, and battery too! You can also adjust the screen brightness if you want to save battery, your eyes will thank you.

– Now you have time to make room! it is better not to fill too much memory on your device, as it can worsen the performance… Delete the applications you do not use, and if you can, leave 25% of memory free- Keep your eyes open at all times: in summer, especially in cities, theft from tourists increases. Don’t carry your devices in accessible pockets, or on the table at the bar…- Make a backup of everything important to save your data in case your device is lost or stolen!- Familiarize yourself with pager applications that protect your device: many brands incorporate applications that can be activated to track your phone in case of theft or loss, do a data wipe, or block the shutdown option… If not, you can also download them. If your device is lost or stolen, you will have to act very fast, so you better know how to use them!

– Insure your device, but not just any way! If you already have a home insurance, check if it covers theft. From SETEM we recommend that you take out all your insurance with insurers that work with ethical and sustainability criteria. Look for them!

– Use an old cell phone: If you want to disconnect and protect yourself from theft, you can always rescue an old, simpler cell phone that still works. If you don’t plan to use it, take it to your SETEM collection point during business hours! We use them for repair workshops in schools, we give them to different initiatives, or we make sure they get to job placement companies that are dedicated to the management of electronic waste and that do their utmost to get them repaired!

– Caution with the use of open wifi networks: Open networks can be a way to save data, but they can also be insecure, as they are very easily accessible to third parties.

– Share these tips with friends and family!

We need an ambitious Catalan waste law!

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SETEM Catalunya has joined forces with more than 20 organisations, trade unions and others to demand an ambitious waste law.

We need the future waste law of Catalonia to go radically against the current model that makes natural resources disappear and generates a great deal of pollution. We have been in front of the Government of the Generalitat to support the demand for waste reduction, liquid toxic products, an economy of reuse, which is paid for and maximum transparency with data.

Dimarts will participate in a performative and vindicative act in which the weight that we assume from the citizenship for the current production and consumption model will be shown. As explained by Rezero, one of the driving forces behind the event, three spheres of about two metres in diameter each will represent the three problems of the current production and consumption model. One evokes the evils derived from the toxicity of everyday consumer products and the pollution caused by bad waste management practices. Another sphere represented the economic costs that are unfairly borne by citizens, as companies externalise part of the costs derived from their activity and end up being borne via taxes. The third sphere denounces the environmental costs of the use-and-fill consumption model, which is mortgaging the future.

The law approved by the government must be as ambitious as possible in order to respond to the climate, social and economic crisis we are facing. The organisations demand from our political representatives policies that really transform the production and consumption model that is suffocating citizens and the planet.

More information at Rezero.


New York passes Digital Right to Repair Act

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Original article by Alex Kamczyc – Recycling Today.

Picture: Thilo Parg. CC licensed.

The New York State Senate has passed the Digital Fair Repair Act, which will expand consumer access to tools and information to repair personal electronics. The bill passed on 3 June by a near-unanimous vote of 145 to 1.

The bill requires original equipment manufacturers to make diagnostic information, replacement parts, schematics, special tools and firmware available to independent repair providers. “This means that repair shops that are fixing these devices will get the support they need without jumping through the hoops that manufacturers make them jump through to control their work,” comments Nathan Proctor, director of the United States Public Interest Research Group. “I hope this will put pressure on the industry to expand access to repairing their devices.

Read more here.

Austria funds repair of electronic devices

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Original article (Markus Piringer and Orla Butler)

The Austrian government launched a new bonus to promote the repair of electronic devices. The national scheme allows consumers to recover half the cost of repairing an old electrical device. Climate Minister Leonore Gewessler launched the scheme with the intention of “making repair attractive again”. Up to €200 of the cost of a repair is refunded, which means cheaper repairs, less e-waste and a boost for local repair companies.

Individuals resident in Austria can exchange the repair bonus for cost estimates or for the repair of their devices. The range of products eligible for the repair bonus includes almost all electrical and electronic equipment commonly used in private households.

Making repair more accessible is a central part of the right to repair. That is why the large number of repairers involved in the scheme is so important. Since the launch of the project on 26 April, some 1,200 companies across Austria have accepted the rebate. The fact that so many companies and independent repairers are involved is fantastic, because it makes it easier for consumers to approach their local repair shop to get their device fixed.

So how does it work for Austrian consumers? With the bonus, device repairs are now half the price, so users can simply download the bonus voucher online and go to one of the companies that accept the bonus. Each voucher finances 50% of the cost of the repair, up to €200 per product repair. It also subsidises 50% of the price of a repair estimate, up to a maximum of €30. The bonus can be exchanged when the invoice is paid and must be valid at that time, regardless of when the order was placed. After the voucher has been exchanged, a new voucher can be requested and used to repair another device. Customers pay the difference, which makes the repair very economical in general. The scheme to promote repair is financed with 130 million euros from the EU’s Next Generation pandemic rescue fund. Austrians will be able to apply for the bonus as long as funds are available.

This is not the first initiative Austria has taken to make repair more affordable. The idea is based on the repair vouchers used by the City of Vienna since autumn 2020. This voucher covered a wide range of consumer goods and was capped at €100. The project was a great success and promoted thousands of reduced-price repairs of all kinds of products. Data published last year on the pilot showed that in more than 90% of cases, defective items could be successfully repaired and given a second chance. The success of the idea proved the effectiveness of the repair and saved a significant amount of resources and CO₂ emissions. In addition, in 2020, the Austrian government reduced VAT on repairs of bicycles, clothes and shoes.

With device repairs at half price throughout the country, repairing an old device is now more affordable and accessible for all Austrians.

The European Parliament calls for removable and replaceable batteries

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This week, the European Parliament voted in favor of making batteries more sustainable, including making them removable and replaceable. MEPs were voting in plenary on their report on  the battery regulation proposed by the European Commission in 2020. They adopted an ambitious position on the issue of removability and replaceability of batteries, a key aspect to extend the lifetime of electronic products sold in Europe. This doesn’t mean user replaceable batteries anytime soon, though, as this only represents the Parliament’s position and the battle for a final, ambitious regulation with the Council still needs to happen.

Another tool in the Right to Repair toolbox

While the regulation will cover many aspects of a battery lifecycle such as due diligence, the carbon footprint from manufacturing, collection, recycling and the use of recycled content, as well as clear labeling, it is also expected to address their removability and replaceability.

As lithium batteries are found in everything from smartphones to scooters, electric cars and energy storage for smart grids, ensuring they can be removed and replaced when they fail is absolutely essential to ensure products can last for longer and prevent unnecessary waste.

Moreover, the report calls for the user replaceability of batteries in all consumer electronics and light means of transport. If this becomes law, it would no longer be possible for manufacturers selling such products in the EU to power them with integrated batteries. When it comes to e-bikes and e-scooters, MEPs called for enabling the replaceability of battery cells by independent repairers, as well as the prevention of the use of software to block the replacement of batteries or other key components.

The Parliament report also called for the batteries for consumer electronics and light means of transport to be available as spare parts for a minimum of 10 years after the last model was placed on the market.

Still a long way to go

With this vote, the European Parliament adopts an ambitious position on the removability and replaceability of batteries, in line with its recent votes calling for the Right to Repair.

The next step now is negotiations between the Council and the Parliament on their respective positions and amendments to the Commission’s proposal. However, the Council’s current position on battery removability is extremely weak and a compromise risks watering down the initial ambition to make batteries removable and replaceable for all electronic products sold in the EU and to make them available as spare parts. Indeed, the Council’s current text plans a vague loophole for products used in “wet conditions”, only considers the battery pack as a unit and not the components that create it, does not ensure that batteries should be available as spare parts nor addresses the use of software to prevent replacement and repair.

A final decision on the Council’s position should be made during the Environment Council on the 17th of March.

Meanwhile, if negotiations go well, the regulation could be adopted in 2022. However, the “entry into force” date is still very far and the timeline for specific measures to become law in member states remains unclear. The Parliament report calls for measures on battery removability to apply from the 1st January 2024. But the latest Council document suggests a 12 to 24 month delay for these measures from the entry into force date in order to give ample time for the industry to adapt. This could lead to the applicability of repairability requirements happening way further down the line, possibly in 2026 or even after.

Serbia: Wave of protests achieves victories against lithium mining

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Summary of the article written by Francisco Norega in

To foster economic growth, the Serbian government has recently made mineral resources available to foreign investors such as Rio Tinto and the Chinese mining group Zijin. Rio Tinto intends to open a 400-hectare lithium mine in an agricultural area along the Jadar River, 14 km from Loznica, a city of 20,000 inhabitants in western Serbia.

The company assures that it would be a “green mine”, that it would comply with all Serbian and European environmental regulations, and that the project would create 2,000 jobs during construction and 1,000 permanent ones. However, these promises did not convince the population, who are concerned about the destruction caused by mining activity and the contamination of land and water.

At the center of the protests there were also two legislative projects that, according to the protesters, were intended to facilitate the exploitation of lithium by multinational mining companies. The new Expropriation Law would allow the forced expropriation of land by the State when the projects are considered to be of public interest, within a period of only eight days.

Critics of this law indicated that it is unacceptable that the government has the right to make the declaration of public interest in a way that is not transparent, arbitrary and without defined criteria. On the other hand, the reform of the Referendum Law would effectively prevent groups and movements from launching referendum initiatives by creating a high administrative fee for this type of popular initiatives. It would also allow inquiries to be considered valid even when participation is less than 50%.

Environmental groups and civil society asserted that these laws would allow the government and businesses to sidestep popular discontent and environmental concerns and move more quickly with projects like the Rio Tinto one.

For all these reasons, for the second Saturday in a row, on December 4, new protests took to the streets of Serbia. In total, the protesters gathered at more than 60 points in cities, towns and highways across the country. It was the largest wave of coordinated protests in Serbia in more than 20 years. Tens of thousands of people sent a clear message to the government to stop the Rio Tinto project in Jadar and all other lithium extraction projects.

The Kreni-promeni movement, one of the groups organizing the protests, called on the population to block roads, bridges and streets for one more hour every Saturday until the demands are accepted.

Given the magnitude of the protests, the government ended up announcing a few days later, on December 8, that it was withdrawing the expropriation law from parliament, as it was reexamined and modified by the President, and the subsequent opening of a broad public debate with the participation of women workers, professional associations, representatives of companies and civil society.

Strong popular pressure and the threat of a new round of protests and blockades provoked another concession from the authorities: two days later, on Friday, Parliament approved the amendments to the referendum law at the proposal of the government. Not only was the administrative fee for popular referendum initiatives eliminated and the participation of the proposing groups in the body conducting the consultation was allowed, but it was also established that a referendum on the same issue cannot be repeated for a period of 4 years, nor can the parliament make a decision other than the referendum for the same period.

However, despite the fact that the Kreni-Promeni group said that the main demands had been met and that, therefore, it would not make sense to continue on the street, other groups and movements maintained the calls for protests for the following day, Saturday. Despite the concessions, the rain and the cold, and although in fewer numbers than on previous Saturdays, thousands of people took to the streets again on December 11 and again blocked traffic in the capital and other cities.

On December 16, the movement made another breakthrough: the Loznica municipal council approved the suspension of the development plan that allowed Rio Tinto to extract lithium in the Jadar region.

More information

Non-replaceable batteries are bad news for the environment and consumers

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Campaigner, Right to Repair Europe

Most batteries cannot be easily removed, replaced or repaired, resulting in shorter device lifetimes.

Planning to buy a smartphone, an e-bike or any other product that includes a rechargeable battery for Christmas? This new research, carried out by the Right to Repair campaign in collaboration with the EEB and the University of Lund shows that most batteries in today’s products cannot be easily removed, replaced or repaired, resulting in shorter device lifetimes, a loss of rare and valuable materials and billions in unnecessary consumer expenditure.

Batteries can be found in most of today’s products from smartphones, laptops and tablets to electric bikes and scooters, and estimates show that the demand will continue to grow in the next decade (up to 60% for batteries in consumer electronics and 15% for electric bikes and scooters by 2030).

Yet, at a time when Europe claims to be a leader on climate and sustainability issues, too many batteries are either non-replaceable or non-repairable resulting in shorter product lifetime, increased electronic waste, loss of critical raw materials and unnecessary expenditure for consumers.

These are some findings of a report released today by the European Environmental Bureau, the Right to Repair campaign and researchers at the University of Lund.

Different products, same challenges

Whenever a battery’s performance slows down, it doesn’t mean the whole device should be discarded. Repairing or replacing it enables consumers to keep using their product, preventing unnecessary e-waste and the purchase of a replacement. Yet, the research has found that many challenges exist to access batteries to replace or repair them.

Welded or glued battery casings for instance make it impossible to access the faulty part while software locks, in particular for e-bikes, prevent refurbishment by independent repairers and shortages of spares and tools make it impossible to repair or replace batteries.

Replaceable batteries: good for the planet, good for people

The study found that battery failure is one of the most common problems for many consumer electronics and often the first component to fail in e-bikes and scooters. 42% of smartphones and 27% of laptops repairs are related to battery replacement.

“This is extremely worrying as the average battery life for these products is around 3 years and the majority of repairers we talked to said that the risk of damaging a device while removing the battery has increased. This suggests that a significant number of devices are being prematurely discarded due to battery failure”

Chloé Mikolajczak, campaigner, Right to Repair Europe

In contrast, the benefits of replaceable removable batteries are numerous. For instance, if all new phones and tablets sold in the EU in 2030 had easily removable and replaceable batteries, 674,834 tons of CO2 could be saved, €19.8 billion wouldn’t be spent as a result of the unnecessary replacement of 39 million devices, and critical raw materials urgently needed for the energy transition such as cobalt and indium would not be lost.

Similarly, making batteries easy to remove would increase their collection rates and reduce the safety risks associated with recycling. Currently, it is estimated that 80% of batteries at waste facilities are removed manually and recyclers report that battery removal has become increasingly complicated, resulting in lower removal and recycling rates.

Another consequence of the increased difficulty of removing batteries is the number of fires at recycling facilities. A recent report  on the scale of fire incidents in the EU that surveyed over 100 companies from 20 countries found that 1/3 of recyclers surveyed reported very serious fire incidents in connection with defective batteries. This is why a coalition of electronic and battery repairers, the recycling industry and environmental NGOs representing at least 500 organisations published a joint statement today calling on the European Commission to take action for more removable, replaceable and repairable batteries in the forthcoming battery regulation.

Time for ambitious regulation

Indeed, timing is critical. The European Commission has proposed a “Battery regulation” that aims to tackle the whole lifecycle of batteries from the supply chain to its disposal, in a bid to make them more sustainable. The proposal, currently in the hands of the European Parliament and Council, addresses the removability of batteries but does not address key issues such as: including light electric vehicles in the scope, addressing spare parts availability, preventing software locks and avoiding unnecessary exemptions and loopholes.

“While there are many companies working to replace, repair and recycle batteries from electronics like smartphones and e-bikes, poor product design and software are making this increasingly challenging or impossible. Manufacturers are wasting precious resources and forcing consumers to replace devices before they need to. The European Council and Parliament now negotiating the European Batteries Regulation have the power to address all of these issues.”


Pierre Schweitzer, Policy Officer for product policy at the EEB,

Photo by Frankie on Unsplash

Union win for Turkish workers producing smart phones

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When Salcomp Turkey, who produces smart phones for Chinese Xiaomi, the second largest smartphone maker in the world, fired 170 workers for joining a union, the union members took action. After six days, Salcomp agreed to reinstate all dismissed workers.

Last month, workers at Salcomp decided to join IndustriALL Global Union affiliate Turk Metal. In return, company management launched a union busting campaign; workers were intimidated, threatened and 170 union members were dismissed. Around 80 per cent of the dismissed workers are women.

When workers protested against the union busting on company grounds, management responded by locking all doors. According to reports, workers inside the factory were not allowed to use the toilets and were banned from using use their mobile phones, cutting off communication with other workers.

But after six days the protests yielded result. Salcomp management agreed to reinstate all dismissed union members, withdraw from the lawsuit challenging the CBA certificate issued by Ministry of Labour and start collective bargaining negotiations on 1 October.

“When we come together, we win. Thanks to the action taken and the attention from international solidarity, the workers’ right to organize has been recognized,”

says Pevrul Kavlak, president of Türk Metal and member of IndustriALL Executive Committee.

“We congratulate Türk Metal and their members on this union win, and welcome the company’s commitment to engaging in genuine social dialogue,”

says Atle Høie, IndustruALL general secretary.

Xiaomi is a multinational electronics company founded in April 2010 and headquartered in Beijing. Xiaomi makes a wide range of electronics products, such as smartphones, laptops, home appliances, and consumer electronics.


Reposted from IndustriALL’s website, fellow member of GoodElectronics

“Delivering Due Diligence” – A Timely Educational Series

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Electronics WatchIndustriAll Global Union, the Fair Trade Advocacy Office and Rethinking Value Chains come together to deliver an educational series on human rights and environmental due diligence.

The new webinar series, with simultaneous translation to/from French, will develop an understanding of due diligence that can benefit workers and communities in a meaningful, measurable and transparent way. We will show how public buyers can apply and demand such a due diligence in their procurement process.

Public buyers consider social and environmental impacts of their procurement already now. The idea of human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) is increasingly central to their activities, putting forward the challenge for public buyers of how to verify and enforce it. But what is due diligence? And how can it be measured and enforced?

With this series we want to deliver input for the discussion around the European Commission proposal for mandatory HREDD.

Six sessions will expand on central aspects of HREDD and its role in public procurement, ranging from verification, enforcement and, remedy, to policies and practices, as well as supporting services for public buyers.

Monday, November 22, 2021, 13:00—14:30 CET

1. Scope of Due Diligence: Tiers, Risks, and Transparency

NB. There will be simultaneous translation to/from French

Speakers at the first session include:

  • Heidi Hautala, Member of the European Parliament, Member of the Committee on International Trade and of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, Founder of the European Parliament working group for Responsible Business Conduct
  • Kan Matsuzaki, Assistant General Secretary, Director, ICT, Electrical and Electronics, Shipbuilding and Shipbreaking, IndustriALL
  • Kristin Tallbo, Sustainability Strategist, Adda Central Purchasing Body, Sweden
  • Alejandro García Esteban, Policy Officer, European Coalition for Corporate Justice
  • Matthew Galvin, Responsible Purchasing Manager, Greater London Authority, England

Click here for more details and to register.