Dear Ms. Giblin,
Thank you for your reply. This response is quite an improvement over some of the previous ones from ICTI CARE in that it acknowledges widespread rights violations in the toy industry. However, we still believe that most of the denials of CLW’s allegations are inaccurate or incorrect. Moreover, we think that as ICTI CARE desires to see faster improvements in labor standards, it must more greatly acknowledge the critical role that buyers play in perpetuating poor labor standards.
The following are some investigative issues that remain in dispute:
1) Your report mentions the only factory which purchased all types of insurance and the housing fund for workers. The company, Foshan Nanhai Mattel Diecast, began doing so in November 2015. But our investigation was conducted during June 2015. Moreover, the company was not paying the benefits according to law, which requires benefits to be paid based on each employee’s gross income (including bonuses and overtime pay). Nanhai Mattel’s benefits were calculated solely according to the base wage, and the company also failed to provide back-pay for workers’ social insurance and housing fund.
2) ICTI CARE’s report claims that Nanhai Mattel has ample training, reaching 24 hours of pre-job safety training. But CLW’s investigation revealed that actual safety training was only half of the 24 hours which the company claimed. CLW’s investigation actually revealed behavior or documentations at each of the five factories that was intended to avoid standards of social auditing, including having workers copy the answers to occupational safety tests or fabricated physical exam information.
3) ICTI CARE’s report claims that there is not discrimination in the hiring process, yet it also admits that the Jetta factory has 4,138 female workers in a total workforce of 4,803 workers. In China, hiring discrimination often targets males because female workers are considered easier to manage. The statistics your report provides validates the reality of hiring discrimination in Jetta. At Combine Will, CLW’s investigator personally witnessed multiple male applicants being turned down by Human Resources.
With regards to age discrimination, you did not provide detailed figures. Based on CLW’s investigation, factories generally do not hire workers above 35 years of age, and this discrimination especially targets female workers.
4) Regarding workers’ annual leave, your report did not provide the exact number of workers who have taken annual leave. Based on CLW’s investigation, most workers in these factories do not actually have annual leave.
5) Some of the factories have formal rules that do not match their actual conduct. For example, Jetta and Winson may have formal management rules for resignation policies, but in reality it is difficult for workers to resign. If a worker resigns without “approval” from management, she may not receive all due wages. CLW’s investigators personally faced such challenges. At Winson, the manager would not even give a resignation form to the investigator, obstructing him from carrying out normal resignation procedures.
6) In some factories, the company would take possession of applicants’ personal IDs. ICTI CARE’s report states that the possession only occurs for a number of hours and workers did not seem to complain about it. But this obviates the conflict with Chinese law, which absolutely prohibits a non-governmental private company from detaining or possessing a person’s ID (e.g., Provisions on Employment Services and Employment Management). Even if a few hours is not a long period of time, the greatest risk is assumed by workers. Moreover, the regular violation of law in small ways leads to an environment in which legal regulations are disregarded, for which workers also pay the highest cost.
While ICTI CARE validated many rights violations allegations, most of the report speaks to the responsibility and failure of factories to abide by rules as a casual factor. It is only in the conclusion that ICTI CARE briefly mentions “Driving improvements in supply chain labor standards requires commitment and cooperation at all levels of the toy industry supply chain.” (Emphasis added.) But the report did not clearly acknowledge the fundamental responsibility shared by clients of factories for widespread labor rights violations. The conclusion raises the idea to review ICTI CARE standards. We support this intention. But the conclusion fails to acknowledge that if standards are raised, the costs to toy brand companies will rise along with them. For instance, the working hour maximum in the toy industry’s standards has for many years far surpassed that set out by Chinese law. If the toy industry lowered the maximum to conform to local regulations, toy plants would need to raise base wages in order to keep workers’ income consistent. In turn, toy brands would need to raise the price they pay; otherwise, the factories would be unable to adapt to the new working hour standard.
A change to the working hour standard is only one example of the influence and responsibility of clients. Other labor conditions would require similar adjustments. Consequently, while ICTI CARE plans to have factories participate in a “Chinese toy factory ethical manufacturing Forum”, it should also plan for toy brands to hold a meeting to discuss raising production prices and reforming purchasing practices.
CLW’s focus and priority are to truly ensure that workers are provided with safe working environment, fair working conditions, and decent living standards. Moreover, we emphasize actual reform and conduct over commitments.
China Labor Watch