Freedom of association and collective bargaining

Addressing grievances in the workplace
Partnership to address grievances in the workplace
170 countries
Listed (NYSE)
No. of employees:


HP is a world leader in technology, producing computers, printers, software and other products and services for companies and consumers. Revenues in 2008 were US$118.4 billion.

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Dilemma: Addressing grievances in the workplace

HP has an extensive supply chain which extends to many emerging markets, including Brazil, Mexico, and China. In many emerging markets, workers may not be aware of their rights and may not have channels to discuss problems. Detecting and addressing workplace issues can be a challenge for companies without an interlocutor who is trusted by the workers.

Good practice: Partnership with a local NGO to create a grievance mechanism

In order to address worker grievances in Mexico, HP has developed a partnership with the Centre for Reflection and Action on Labour Rights (CEREAL), a local NGO. CEREAL provides training and legal assistance and conducts research on labour rights issues. CEREAL focuses on the electronics workers in Guadalajara.

In Mexico, HP works with CEREAL to identify and address the grievances of workers in their supply factories. CEREAL, in collaboration with a private university, provides training and a diploma in human and labour rights for the workers. They will also represent worker complaints to the factory management and others involved in the grievance mechanism. Initiated by HP, the grievance mechanism within the electronics industry provides for an elevation path for complaints, bringing external facilitation into the process as it advances.

There are several stages to the complaints process:

  • CEREAL will raise a complaint on behalf of a worker with the factory management
  • CEREAL reviews the information available from both parties, allowing the company the opportunity to do an investigation and then seek to negotiate a solution directly
  • If this fails, they can take the complaint to the Chamber of the Electronic Industry, CANIETI. Representatives of CANIETI mediate between the factory, CEREAL and the worker(s), encouraging a settlement in line with labour rights standards
  • If there is still no resolution, the brand companies sourcing from those factories are notified and work with the factory and CEREAL, bringing their leverage to bear, in a final effort to reach a settlement
  • The option of legal recourse remains open to complainants throughout

It is in the best interest of companies to allow grievances to be made. According to a report by Harvard Kennedy School's CSR Initiative, “It a company's best interest to ensure that those parties who may wish to bring complaints have the requisite resources available to them to do so in an informed and constructive manner and to engage as a partner in dialogue...The main question is not whether, but how, to address them.”

Results: Improved working conditions within suppliers for HP and other brands

HP has received praise from CEREAL for working to improve working conditions among its suppliers, but also for acting to improve working conditions within the industry as a whole. According to CEREAL, HP's “most important role...was to act as a mediator in cases involving companies which were not their suppliers” but which faced problems.