Lewisham Council commits to tackling abuses in global supply chains

Second local authority in the UK to be affiliated with Electronics Watch

Lewisham Council will today (Thursday) become the second local authority in the UK to be affiliated with Electronics Watch, the independent monitoring organisation for global electronics supply chains.

It will join over 300 public sector organisations around the world working to end the abuse and exploitation of workers involved in the supply of electronic items.

UNISON has devised a four-year plan to work with UK public bodies to eliminate the use of goods which are sourced or produced through modern slavery and other abuses of workers.

Around £250 billion is spent by public organisations in the UK annually on the procurement of items such as electronic goods and uniforms, as well as catering and construction.

UNISON is working with Electronics Watch and international unions to highlight and remedy poor practice that leads to the production of work equipment falling short of international agreed workers’ rights.

Lewisham Council will sign an agreement at a fringe meeting today (Thursday) during UNISON’s national conference in Liverpool. The event will be attended by Lewisham’s Mayor Damien Egan and Harpreet Paul from Electronics Watch.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “UNISON congratulates Lewisham Council for taking a lead on this vital issue. We’re encouraging all local authorities to do the same and affiliate to Electronics Watch.

“People want to know their workplace computers and the uniforms they wear haven’t been made by workers suffering horrendous conditions.

“Councils, local hospitals, universities and schools across the country must think about how their goods are sourced. UNISON will use its unique position to bring public bodies together with organisations like Electronics Watch and international unions to improve the lives of workers in supply chains around the world.”

Björn Claeson, Director of Electronics Watch, said: “We are delighted that Lewisham has affiliated to Electronics Watch.

“Lewisham increases the strength of an international network of affiliated public buyers to tackle modern slavery and other labour abuses in their electronics supply chains.”

Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham, said: “By affiliating with Electronics Watch, Lewisham Council is building on its commitment to tackle modern slavery and procure more ethically.

“The complexity of councils’ supply chains means that tackling modern slavery and exploitation in them is a huge challenge.

“That is why it is so important that local government and unions work in partnership and use collective buying power to protect workers’ rights and scrutinise every level of the supply chain.

“That means preferring to work with organisations that respect Freedom of Association, so workers are empowered to understand their rights and unionise to protect them.”

Notes to editors:
– The Local Government Association ICT procurement guidance strategy and the report Ethical Procurement in UK Local Authorities, produced on behalf of UNISON by People & Planet, the largest student network in the UK campaigning for social and environmental justice and an Electronics Watch partner. Both documents recommend local authorities consider joining Electronics Watch.
– Electronics Watch is an independent monitoring organisation that helps public sector organisations to protect the rights of workers in their electronics supply chains.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.
– Earlier this month Theresa May pledged to extend the Modern Slavery Act to the public sector. As a result, local authorities will be compelled to report on their policies and procedures in ensuring modern slavery does not exist in their supply chains.
– UNISON’s national conference is taking place from 18-21 June 2019 at the ACC in Liverpool.
– Tower Hamlets Council was the first local authority to become affiliated with Electronics Watch.

Media contacts: 
Anthony Barnes (UNISON) T: 0207 121 5255 M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk
Damien Egan (Mayor of Lewisham) T: 020 8314 6193 E: damien.egan@lewisham.gov.uk
Björn Claeson (Electronics Watch) M: 0748 0050 341 E:  bclaeson@electronicswatch.o