Improving the working environment of Chinese toy factories cannot be delayed
Gayle S. Putrich | Plastic News China In a US Congressional hearing on December 11, critics pointed out that the labor working environment in Chinese toy factories (mostly engaged in plastic production) has not improved, and non-governmental organizations And the attention of private sector social auditing has also been ineffective. The ICTI Care Foundation, which is responsible for the 'ethical production' certification program in the global toy industry, stated that it has strengthened the observation period and cancelled certification in the past year, and promoted greater transparency. China’s domestic toy industry has also passed the China Toys and Children’s Products Association and launched its own toy safety initiatives and consumer guidelines. But industry observers say that the working environment in Chinese toy factories has stagnated over the past decade. “The reason for the existence of sweatshops is not complicated: the huge cost and production pressure imposed by multinational companies on Chinese local manufacturers. Unfortunately, during the peak production season, buyers’ demand can directly lead to forced management and even forced labor. Meeting production needs,' Brian Campbell, policy and legal program director of the International Labor Rights Forum, told the US Congressional China Committee (CECC). A report from the non-governmental organization China Labor Watch stated that in the four Chinese toy factories that the organization visited unannounced, the working environment was poor. Their customers included major US toy companies and retailers, including Mattel, Fisher, Disney, Hasbro and Crayola. Li Qiang, founder and executive director of China Labor Watch, said that there are serious labor abuses, ranging from extensive safety hazards and lack of safety training to mandatory excessive overtime, abusive management and ineffective audits, which are all driven by profit. Kevin Slayden, the project coordinator of the organization, served as Li Qiang's translator. 'Brand companies lower prices, and factories squeeze profits from workers. Toy brands have strict requirements on product materials and quality, which leads to labor costs as the only variable factor,' he said. 'Workers at the bottom of the system are forced to bear the cost.' Labor law violations are unfair to workers and also pose risks to company investors, he said. For example, in two factories directly controlled by Mattel, China Labor Watch found that the company owed more than $7 million in social insurance premiums to 9,000 workers. This is a huge liability violation in China, and China’s labor laws are much looser than in many other parts of the world. 'We have seen this story repeated over and over again: American companies transferred production to China because of the cheap local labor and poor labor law enforcement, and then reselling these items back to the United States. This business model is unprecedented in human history,' the China Committee will Long Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown (Ohio) said. 'We need to act. We need to be able to tell our children who made their toys. Maybe she is the mother of another child and she has a good job. We can't say that now,' Brown said. William S. Reese, president and CEO of the International Youth Foundation and a member of the ICTI Care Foundation Management Committee, said that the organization’s audit provided a snapshot of Chinese toy factories. He said that the group has been able to provide support to workers through hotlines and investigations, and factories that have serious or habitual violations have been decertified by them. This means that American companies have agreed to move production elsewhere. Reese believes that ICTI standards will help improve China’s toy industry. But Earl Brown, a labor lawyer and AFL-CIO China Project Director, believes that ICTI’s social audit and worker assistance are not deep enough. “Social auditing is like playing Hamlet in Shakespeare, but without the Danish prince,” Brown said. “Vague, inaccurate and not providing test records or public documents.” “If we are thinking about what the U.S. government should do, don’t think about it. Geopolitics, it should provide funding and support to provide greater support for grassroots workers and their rights advocates,' he said.