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12-year-old Child Labour Exploited in China Olympics Goods Factories

Posted by Author on June 11, 2007

Press release, Trades Union Congress (TUC), 10 June 2007-

New research published today (Monday) shows that licensed goods bearing the logo of the 2008 Beijing Games have been made in factories where child labour and gross exploitation are rife.

As members of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) gather in London for a progress report on the 2012 Games, the report – ‘No Medal for the Olympics‘ finds evidence of children as young as 12 years old producing Olympic merchandise. Researchers also found adults earning 14p per hour (half the legal minimum wage in China) and employees who were made to work up to 15 hours per day, seven days a week.

The research undertaken inside China by the Playfair Alliance – represented in the UK by the TUC and Labour Behind the Label (LBL) – into working conditions in four factories making 2008 Olympic bags, headgear, stationery and other products also reveals that factory owners are falsifying employment records, and forcing workers to lie about their wages and conditions.

With 1872 days to go until the London Olympics, campaigners at a meeting in Parliament later today will call on the organisers of the 2012 Games to act now to make sure that their own licensed goods are not made with similar violations of workers’ rights. The Playfair Alliance has expressed concern that workers’ rights could be jeopardised by the pressure to keep the overall cost of the London Games down.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Children and adult workers are being grossly exploited so that unscrupulous employers can make more profit. Their actions tarnish the Olympic ideal, and we don’t want more of the same when the Olympics come to London. The IOC must add respect for workers’ rights to the Olympic charter.’

Maggie Burns, Chair of Labour Behind the Label, said: “The London Olympics has just spent £400,000 on a logo. There is no reason why organisers cannot ensure a ‘sweat-free’ games, if they act now. Previous games have tried and failed to safeguard workers’ rights. If London is to raise the bar, it will need to be creative and ambitious, but it will also need to put enough resources in place.”

Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said:

“We warned the IOC at the time that failure to take the necessary action on labour standards would lead to situations such as those identified in the report, bringing lasting damage to the name and reputation of the Olympic movement. Unfortunately, our call has been ignored. This must not happen again.”

Researchers for the Playfair Alliance came across many examples of worker abuse in Chinese factories producing goods for the IOC and the Beijing Games including:

  • The Le Kit Stationery Co Ltd in Guangdong, which is producing stationery for the 2008 Olympics, was employing more than 20 children, the youngest just 12 years old. These youngsters had been hired during the school holidays and were working from around 7.30am until 10.30pm, doing the same jobs as adults. Forced overtime, harsh fines, the punishment of workers, and wages less than half the legal minimum were amongst the violations uncovered in the factory, which does not give its 400 employees any contract of employment.
  • The Yue Wong Cheong company’s operations in Shenzen is producing some 50 different items under licence for the 2008 Olympics. It regularly pays its workers less than 50% of the Chinese minimum wage, and requires them to work 13 hours per day with few, if any, days off a month. Many workers complained about poor health and safety, including fire hazards, skin problems from chemicals and respiratory problems from dust. Fake salary slips are used to dupe outside inspectors sent by the company’s clients to check wages and conditions.
  • Mainland Headwear Holdings Ltd employs some 3,000 workers at its Shenzen factory, paying them as little as 45% of the minimum wage and forcing them to work overtime far in excess of the legal limit. Workers who resign are “fined” one month’s wages by the company, while the whole workforce is given instructions on how to lie to outside inspectors about wages and conditions. Any worker who tells the truth faces instant dismissal, while those who follow the factory’s “answer guidelines” are given a financial reward.
  • Eagle Leather Products is a Hong Kong owned company based in Guangdong with a workforce of around 200. Most workers producing the company’s Olympics-branded bags are made to work 30 days per month, with forced overtime meaning that total working hours a month can be in excess of 300 hours. While workers say that wage levels are satisfactory, excessive fines, punishments and arbitrary rules make life extremely difficult.

The Playfair Alliance is calling on the IOC to:

  • Demand that countries hosting the Olympics make sure that goods produced under licence meet core labour standards, and where this is not the case, the IOC must act to put the situation right.
  • Ensure that respect for workers’ rights is a key part of the Olympic Charter and of the IOC Code of Ethics.
  • Commit resources to undertake investigations of working conditions and acts to end abusive and exploitative labour practices in IOC supply chains.

NOTES:
– The full report can be found at http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/playfair.pdf

Original report from TUC : Olympics merchandise made using child labour, says TUC

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