An association of global electronics companies voted to prohibit recruiters or employers from charging recruitment fees to workers in a step to improve human rights for workers.
The Electronics Industry Citizenship Council voted to prohibit charging of recruitment fees to workers either by recruiters or directly by employers in a step to improve human rights for workers. The group said excessive recruitment fees can lead to forced labor, trapping workers in debt to the labor broker or employment agency that recruited them.
The coalition’s 100 members include Dell Inc., IBM Corp., Samsung Electronics, Toshiba Corp., Microsoft, Lenovo, Qualcomm and more.
Members voted March 27 to add this wording to the coalition’s code of conduct: “Workers shall not be required to pay employers’ or agents’ recruitment fees or other related fees for their employment. If any such fees are found to have been paid by workers, such fees shall be repaid to the worker.”
Other provisions aimed at ending forced labor were also added last year and went into effect on April 1. They include a prohibition on the holding of passports and other key worker documents as well as unreasonable restrictions on movement and access to basic liberties. It also requires workers be provided with a written contract in their native language prior to departing from their country of origin.
Apple Inc. earlier this year  announced separately it would no longer allow foreign contract workers at suppliers’ factories abroad to be charged recruitment fees. Apple also reported it recouped $3.96 million in excessive recruitment fees charged workers in 2014. In addition, HP banned recruitment fees in November.
Both Apple and HP are members of the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition.
“This decision on the part of businesses within the electronics industry, to protect workers against exploitation, is a huge step forward in stamping out bad practices in the contingent work market globally” said Fiona Coombe, Staffing Industry Analysts’ director of legal and regulatory research.
The International Labour Organisation’s convention 181 also bans charging of fees to workers, and France recently became the 29th country to ratify the convention. By ratifying the convention a country formally accepts the rules laid out in the convention to be legally binding. However ratification of the convention introduced in 1997 has been slow.
CIETT has issued a paper on the benefits to countries associated with ratification of convention 181 .