Chinese doll factory investigated over workplace abuse claims

The workers at a toy factory in Heyuan, China, were working illegally overtime, and often earning less than SG$1.80 per hour.
By: | December 12, 2018


The human rights groups Solidar Suisse and China Labour Watch have launched an investigation into a Chinese toy factory in Heyuan, China, with claims of staff working overtime illegally.

This is in addition to allegations of its workers not receiving holiday or sick pay, and earning less than SG$1.80 hourly.

According to a report by Eco-Business, published with permission from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the female dominated workforce at the Wah Tung factory makes Disney and Fisher-Price dolls, along with other global brands.

The factory has also been certified by responsible sourcing scheme the Ethical Toy Program (ETP).

The investigation comes under the ethical scheme for the toy industry, with activists encouraging consumers to deliberate when purchasing Christmas gifts.

“It might be uncomfortable, but I hope this Christmas we as consumers think about who is behind the gifts we buy for our loved ones,” said Jakub Sobik, Communications Manager at Anti-Slavery International.

“(We must) start demanding that businesses do much more to make sure human misery doesn’t fuel the products they sell to us,” Sobik told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

So far, neither Disney nor Mattel have responded to the allegations, but both toy giants are members of the ETP.

The program aims to certify and audit about 1,200 toy factories globally for more than 1,000 brands and retailers, and striving to enhance workers’ lives and improve labour standards across the industry.

“We take the issues raised by China Labor Watch (CLW) very seriously and have launched our own investigation, we will quickly and effectively address any issues identified which are in breach of our standards,” said ETP spokesman Mark Robertson.

“This investigation will include a review of each CLW allegation, an analysis of existing audit data, factory visits to investigate allegations, and follow-up meetings with factory management,” he added.

First reported by the Guardian newspaper, it said that factory workers making a Princess Ariel doll, which sells online for SG$60, may only receive a measly average of less than one cent per toy.

According to Joanna Ewart-James, Executive Director of anti-slavery network Freedom United, such findings are “concerning”, yet “not uncommon”, but called on the public to “challenge companies that profit at the expense of their workers.”