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JUHANI ARTTO
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Nokia and trade unions in dialogue on employees' rights
in Nokia's units around the world


Helsinki (30.05.2010 - Juhani Artto) Jyrki Raina, the General Secretary of the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), was satisfied following the meeting on 18 May with Nokia's CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo. The parties had confirmed their willingness to continue dialogue on employees' rights in Nokia's units around the world.

In December 2009 the Finnish-based ICT multinational Nokia had production units in Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Romania, China, India, South Korea, Mexico and Brazil. At the end of 2009 the company had over 123,000 employees. Many of these countries present difficult environments for union activists and organisations, Raina said.

IMF would like to negotiate and sign a international framework agreement (IFA) with Nokia but the company is not yet ready for it. Raina is hopeful that Nokia will warm to the idea of an IFA within the next two or three years.

In Finland union activists have long wondered why Nokia -or any of the other Finnish-based multinational- has not followed the example of dozens of Western European MNCs that have signed IFAs with union organisations. Some observers speculate that what really lies behind this unsatisfactory situation is the altogether negative attitude of the powerful Confederation of Finnish Industries EK.

But even without an IFA, Raina believes that constructive cooperation with Nokia may be advanced in several ways. One of them is this: The International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) and the unions representing Nokia's personnel in Finland plan to produce factory-by-factory studies on working conditions in Nokia's units.

And, this kind of cooperation is not new as Nokia played a positive role when such a study (2002) was made on Nokia's factory in Manaus, Brazil. In 2008 a similar study on Nokia's factory in Reynosa, Mexico was published, but it was made without Nokia cooperation. An updated -and in terms of its focus- wider version of this Mexico study is underway, Raina said at his press conference in Helsinki.

He visions that Nokia could become the ICT industry flagship, not only in terms of being the leading mobile telephone producer, but also by virtue of ethical criteria. Raina stressed that high ethical standards are as important for the company as for its personnel.

He referred to the recent news of ten suicides this year at Foxconn's factory in Shenzhen, China as an example of how a subcontractor's mistakes may also hurt global brands. This is what one now needs to be addressed at Apple which has extensively used Foxconn's Shenzhen factory services. To keep the brand's image positive, the whole production chain, including all subcontractors, must be ethically acceptable.

In the May 18 meeting with trade union representatives Nokia undertook to ensure that the company will do everything in its power to see that sustainable ethical standards extend to its subcontractors also. This was something that was clearly underlined at the press conference, by Pertti Porokari, the President of the Union of Professional Engineers.

However, in today's world such announcements and commitments are not longer convincing. If Nokia wishes to be taken seriously and maximise or take full advantage of the much vaunted commitment to genuine corporate social responsibility which it professes in its declarations (code of conduct) then Nokia should let independent auditing organisations permanently monitor its own units and all of its production chains, including the subcontractors and raw material providers. Nokia is still far away from that level of commitment.

Outside pressure does not only come from consumers but also from investors. Raina made the point that the IMF receives weekly inquiries on the behaviour of companies from investors.

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