Hazards in the electronics are one of the best kept secrets by the industry. Electronics is often compared to toxic chemical industry with range of hazardous chemicals being used there. In the industrialised countries, both in the Europe and the Americas thousands of workers have suffered badly from working in these hazardous industries and the ailments range from range of cancers, respiratory disorders and even reproductive system damages. In past few decades, most of the manufacturing has moved to Asia to countries like Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines and more recently the shift has been towards China which employs the largest electronics manufacturing workers in the world. Ironically, in Asia the industry is promoted as a clean and green industry and there is very little awareness about the hazards in this industry. Though there have been active campaigns in Thailand and Taiwan against the electronics industry where hundreds of workers have been suffering from range of diseases. However, electronics industry has yet to accept the responsibility for the health damages it has been causing among the workers and also among the community members. AMRC has been actively trying to raise awareness about the hazards in the electronics industry and published a manual in this regard more than 20 years ago. This manual has been used as major reference manual by activist not only in Asia but globally. AMRC has also been recently tying up with similar organisations in US, Europe who is trying to organise the victims of the electronics industry. AMRC is also partnering with the International Metal Workers Union to update its 20 year manual so that it can address the new realities.
AMRC will support the existing initiatives of organising by the electronics workers in Asia and provide support in terms of information and skills. AMRC also aims at building the linkages between the groups in North and Asia so that the struggle process is shared with the labour groups in Asia, which will help them in building effective strategies. AMRC will also assist in organising the capacity building initiatives for the electronics workers in key Asian countries – China being one of the major countries because of the sheer scale of the industry. Based on the field work AMRC will then develop a manual in collaboration with other key Asian and International labour and community organisations on occupational and environmental rights and justice issues in the electronics industry.
Batam is an island close to Singapore but part of Indonesia. Until the late 1970s it had a few thousand inhabitants that lived mostly on the produce of land, forests and sea. Like Shenzhen, it all changed in late 1970s and early 1980s. Batamt became an assembly line where cheap labour could assemble parts and products that would feed into the more advanced and capital intensive Singapore industry.