Two China Olympics goods factories accused of rights abuses

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 24, 2012 8:28 AM
Two China Olympics goods factories accused of rights abuses

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong-based labor rights group slammed London Olympics organizers on Tuesday for failing to prevent "rampant" abuses at two China suppliers of Games merchandise.

In the latest investigation into outsourced manufacturing in China, SACOM (Scholars and Students against Corporate Misbehaviour) probed two Olympics suppliers and said it found patchy workplace safety, minimum wages and excessive overtime.

The group said the Olympics organizers (LOCOG) had failed to bolster monitoring of Chinese suppliers after a high-profile report by the U.K.-based Playfair campaign in January.

"The rampant rights violations reveal that the LOCOG codes are really no more than lip service with no commitment to the enforcement of labor rights standards," SACOM, an active labor rights advocacy group in China, said in a report on its investigation in May and June.

The two factories are Xinda, a production facility of Zindart Manufacturing Limited, and Shiwei Toys, a Hong Kong-owned toy supplier for brands such as Hasbro, both based in the southern "world factory" of the Pearl River Delta.

In both factories, the report said, workers had 11-to-12-hour shifts six days a week with overtime work up to 120 hours a month. At Xinda, workers who dozed off during work lost two-four hours' wages. At Shiwei, being five minutes late for work led to a half-day salary deduction.

"Workers are exposed to hazardous working environments without adequate protective equipment," the report said. "At Xinda, some workers have to bring their own masks to work."

Zindart CEO Chris Franklin said the company complied with industry labor standards including those set by the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI), and dismissed accusations that it failed to supply adequate safety equipment.

"I know without doubt we provide all necessary clothing and protection. The spray departments are properly ventilated and extracted," Franklin said in emailed comments to Reuters.

He said most workers were only paid minimum basic wages of around 1,100 yuan ($170) per month as manufacturers across China faced pressure from rising costs and shrinking demand in core markets like debt-stricken Europe.

"We pay minimum wages but that is all we can pay based on the price paid for the products by our customers. They already think we are high priced," he added.

Franklin recently allowed a Reuters television crew unlimited access to film in his factory.

China has long relied on cheap and intensive labor, though in recent years, there have been signs of rising wages and a more assertive generation of workers launching successful strikes at multinational plants.

Executives at Shiwei could not be immediately reached for comment. The ICTI CARE Process, which promotes safe and humane working conditions worldwide, said it would study the SACOM report.

Earlier this year, LOCOG said in response to the U.K.-based Playfair report that it had "taken supply chain engagement and management further and deeper than any previous organizing committee.

"However, there is still scope for improvement and there are valuable lessons to share."

There was no immediate response from LOCOG to the SACOM report.

(Reporting by James Pomfret and Twinnie Siu; Editing by Nick Macfie)