Six Chinese supplier factories for leading U.S. toy maker Mattel have allegedly deprived workers of at least $8 million in wages and benefits, according to a labor rights organization.
China Labor Watch (CLW) estimates that the supplier factories have denied between $8 million and $11 million in overtime wages and social insurance, which is legally required in China. An investigative report by CLW also found numerous legal violations and questionable practices at the factories, including at least 84 hours of monthly overtime, up to 13-hour working days, hot and crowded living arrangements, hiring discrimination, inadequate safety training and protection equipment, environmental pollution, and labor contract violations.
Mattel has acknowledged potential labor violations but has so far failed to enforce its own code of conduct for supplier factories, according to CLW:
Mattel’s shares responsibility for the violations found throughout its supply chain. In order to meet Mattel’s low price and tight time schedule demands, its supplier factories resort to finding cost savings through the degradation of labor conditions. This dynamic has in part caused Mattel’s failure to rigorously enforce its own code of conduct for supplier factories since 1997.
Moreover, Mattel understands the breadth and severity of labor violations in its supply chain. For over a decade, audits commissioned by Mattel itself have uncovered labor violations in factories producing Mattel toys. But the corporation has taken little meaningful corrective action, and over time, Mattel’s public reporting of these audits has become more and more limited.
Mattel has also faced worker strikes at its supplier factories:
The way in which Mattel shirks responsibility for violations is embodied in a recent strike at its supplier factory. A group of 322 Chinese workers at one Mattel supplier plant called the Baode Toy Factory went on strike in August to demand unpaid retirement insurance. In the two months since the strike, Mattel has done nothing to rectify the violation despite investigating it. Mattel should respond constructively to this incident, and it must not choose to stop using the factory for production, all but guaranteeing that the workers lose their jobs.
CLW recommends in its report, which can be found here, that Mattel make its supply chain activities more transparent, alter its buying practices, and establish third-party assistance for worker grievances. Some of the six supplier factories also produce toys for Disney, McDonalds, and Hasbro.