An undercover investigation has exposed the Wah Tung factory in Heyuan
The hugely popular Disney Ariel Doll has very humble beginnings, and we’re talking about the Chinese workers illegally long working hours for just 1 cent per $44 doll made.
An undercover investigation has exposed the Wah Tung factory in Heyuan, were staff alleged to work 175 hours of overtime in one month.
Excited children across the globe will be asking for the pour n Ariel doll – Disney’s answer to the Little Mermaid.
The upsetting part is Santa’s elves did not make them in the north pole.
The dolls were made in the city of Heyuan, by people working to exhaustion and for wages too low to support a family.
According to an investigation published by the rights groups Solidar Suisse and China Labor Watch, in partnership with the Guardian, evidence was found of extreme and illegal overtime, no holiday, sick pay for workforces making toys for Disney.
The Guardian reports:
Staff at the Wah Tung factory in the city of Heyuan affirmed that they worked 175 hours of overtime in a month, with only one day off over that period – both violations of Chinese labor law and toy industry codes of conduct.
The basic wage on the line is 7.5 Chinese yuan (85p) – legal, but so low that workers say they feel forced to work overtime.
The investigation, which took place earlier this year, also highlighted a notable gender inequality, with men outnumbering women nine to one in management roles but women making up 80% of the workforce.
Heyuan is a city of roughly 3 million people in Guangdong province, south-east China.
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It is home to Wah Tung (Heyuan) Toy Manufacturing Ltd, where about 2,000 workers produce a range of mainly plastic toys and electronics.
This is where Disney makes the Princess Sing & Sparkle Ariel doll that sells for £34.99. Many online stores have sold out of merchandise and are awaiting a fresh delivery a few days before Christmas.
At the peak of production, in late summer, as many as 2,400 of the dolls were rolling off the Wah Tung production line each day.
The doll comes with a mane of deep red hair and a glittery tail that acts like a snow globe.
In the last quarter, it helped Disney’s consumer goods division to an acting income of £264m on revenue of £880m.But the investigation discovered that, when costs were broken down, each of the women on the production line was receiving just 1p for every doll produced.*
The investigator joined the Sing & Sparkle assembly line for a month during the summer.
From her own experience and interviews with fellow workers, she found daily overtime ranged between two and five hours and that, with weekends included, overtime would seldom hit 175 hours a month – nearly five times the legal limit of 36 hours.
In low season, workers earned about 2,000 Chinese yuan a month (£228); during peak season, they generally took home about 3,000 yuan.
A survey last year put the average Chinese monthly salary at 7,665 yuan.
Workers were demanded to arrive 10 minutes before the commencement of their shifts; numerous reported feeling excessively tired because of the long hours.
Photographs from the production lines show workers asleep or sleeping during breaks.
In her diary, the investigator noted:
“At 5 pm, the worker behind me said she felt so tired that her back was sore. She wanted to sleep so badly but couldn’t since our shift wasn’t over yet. She wondered why was time to go by so slowly. I said that I also felt the time was going by very slowly. When you’re constantly doing the same thing over and over again, you start to feel dizzy, and your vision becomes blurry.”
She also noted that most of her colleagues were women over the age of 45 who were drawn to the work because they were “poorly educated, well-behaved, respectful, and care more about children and family.”
Factories like them because “they are less likely to make trouble and easier to manage” than men, she wrote.
“There were a lot of female workers at the toy factory, and some of them were older. So, when they worked, they needed to wear reading glasses. They worked very carefully and quickly, but some of the time, the line leader would say they worked too slowly or would yell at them. Whenever the female workers were being yelled at, they would never say a word in return and would silently continue working on the task at hand.”
Simone Wasmann, from Solidar Suisse, urged toy companies to share some of their profits with workers.
“Children love Disney’s toys, but we want their parents to understand that there’s no Christmas magic going on here: those toys were made with cheap labor by women working illegally long hours for pennies.
“For them, it is just a day after day of misery. They don’t work in those factories long into the night because they want to: they do that because it is the only way they can make enough money to live.”
She said Disney could afford to pay high prices to ensure wage increases.
“It’s time the company gave something back to the people who make their merchandise by raising their wages, cutting their hours and making the factories obey the law [on overtime]. A few pennies on the price of a doll or a few pennies less in the company’s pockets would enable workers to earn a living wage.”
Many of the biggest toy makers – including Disney and Mattel – are members of the International Council of Toy Industries Ethical Toy Program, which sets out anticipated industry standards intended, the body says, to correct working conditions in toy factories.
The Wah Tung factory is certified by the ETP. Speaking on the factory’s behalf, ETP spokesman Mark Robertson said:
“The allegations highlighted from the CLW report contravene ethical toy programme’s requirements on working hours, wages, holiday pay and annual leave. We will work directly with factories to address any issues identified.
“We take the issues raised by China Labor Watch very seriously and have launched our investigation. We will quickly and effectively address any issues identified which are in breach of our standards.”
Robertson said that the ETP had performed substantive course in raising ethical conditions at the organization’s certified factories in China and elsewhere.
“Wages have increased, factory environments are safer and working hours are reducing; hours worked at toy factories in China are lower than those in the apparel and electronic sectors.”
A spokesman for Disney said the brand was a member of the ethical toy programme’s committed brands plus programme, which is used alongside others “as part of our responsible sourcing approach.”
He attributed to a statement from ETP in which the council said it welcomed “any robust investigation which increases our understanding of working conditions at toy factories.”
Mattel said it had no contemporary production in the factories mentioned in the CLW report.
“Mattel is committed to ensuring every single person making our toys and products is treated fairly, with respect, and can work in a safe and healthy environment. Our labor standards, environmental, health, and safety programmes and oversight processes reflect this commitment, and we stand behind our record of ethical labor practices and environmental stewardship.”