05 February 2004 | Simon Binns
Computer manufacturers have been urged to demand better working conditions among their suppliers in low-cost countries after a report revealed a litany of discrimination and harassment.
Cafod, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, called for an industry-wide supplier code of conduct after discovering that workers in Mexico, Thailand and China endured humiliating recruitment and employment practices.
In its report, Clean Up Your Computer, Cafod said the "appallingly" low standards were unacceptable.
The labourers, paid an average of £2.50 a day, worked for firms that supply parts to computer makers Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
Reasons for rejection given by a recruitment agency that supplied staff for IBM included homosexuality, pregnancy and union membership.
One woman was forced to strip naked during an interview and was touched in "sensitive areas" by medical examiners looking for tattoos, according to the report.
IBM said it would strengthen its discrimination policy "to include new language that specifically prohibits them from discriminating against employees and applicants for employment because of race, colour, religion, sex, age, national origin or any other legally protected status".
HP said it was happy with its own supplier code of conduct for its top 50 suppliers and that it was working with all its suppliers to ensure their practices reflected its values.
Dell also welcomed the investigation, saying it raised some serious issues.