Telstra is fine with VTech – nothing to see here

There’s an interesting development in the VTech scandal I wrote about last week – Telstra has decided to start selling its kit again.

Now, I don’t mean to be cynical here but the Aussie telco giant only decided to pull VTech products temporarily from its shelves about a week ago after a report broke detailing serious human rights and labour abuses.

It provided me with the following statement today:

We are satisfied with the outcomes of our investigation and we will resume sales of the handsets in our branded stores.

So a week is all it takes to satisfy the many and very serious charges levelled by the report from not-for-profit the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights?

There could be a few explanations for what just happened:

  • The report is a complete fabrication and Telstra was quickly able to establish this
  • Telstra is doing this for purely commercial reasons – Vtech apparently makes all of its fixed line phones – and is still investigating behind the scenes
  • Telstra has been made assurances about VTech conditions by the company and has naively accepted them without investigating first hand.

Given that conditions in electronics factories in the Pearl River delta are known to be pretty awful, I think the first option is pretty unlikely.

Having made the bold step of removing VTech products in the first place to presumably head off any negative publicity at the pass, Telstra has opened itself back up very quickly.

No word yet from other big name tech vendors involved, including Motorola, Philips etc. Presumably if they agree with Telstra, then we can all sleep easy. Or not.

Final word to Geoff Crothall from HK-based rights group the China Labour Bulletin who told me the following:

Of course, one week is not long enough to fully investigate such claims. The only way to really understand working conditions is to listen to the workers. But before you do that you need to gain their trust and demonstrate that their complaints will be taken seriously and that mechanisms are in place to resolve their complaints.

Methinks this one is set to run a little longer yet, and could drag the names of the big tech brands involved further into the mire if they haven’t gotten their crisis management strategies  right from the outset.


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