Follow-up Investigative Report on Early Light

Executive Summary 
 Toys play a starring role in many a childhood memory. Take a walk through a playground on a summer day and chances are you will see children running around, chasing each other with Nerf guns or playing make believe with Disney princess dolls. As innocent and idyllic as the playground scene may seem to be, the process of how those toys make it into our children’s hands is much less picturesque.Early Light International Ltd. Co. is a toy factory based in Shaoguan, Guangdong, and manufactures products for brands like Disney, Walmart, Hasbro, Mattel and Bandai. These brands’ portfolios include much loved toys such as the aforementioned Nerf guns and Disney princess dolls. China Labor Watch conducted its first investigation into Early Light in August 2017 and the results revealed an array of poor working conditions such as excessive overtime, discriminatory hiring practices and lack of a labor union. Even more alarming were the two incidents where an Early Light worker jumped from a factory building, resulting in one worker passing away and the other falling into a months-long coma before finally regaining consciousness.
Early Light Factory Entrance and Products manufactured at Early Light
Left: Spinmaster Chubby Puppies Tent Playset
Right: Hasbro Nerf Rival Deadpool
(Target – Disney Princess products) 

In the background of these rights violations and work injury incidents are the multinational corporations’ supplier codes of conduct, where promises to ensure “ethical and responsible conduct in all of our operations” and “implement procedures and safeguards to prevent accidents and injuries to workers” are put forth but seemingly unenforced.

Given the abysmal working conditions revealed in 2017, CLW launched a follow up investigation in April 2018 to see if the factory had made any improvements to its working conditions. During the course of the investigation, some improvements were discovered such as making first aid kits available to workers, contributing to workers’ social insurance and improving the factory’s fire safety protocol but many of the original issues were found to still be ongoing.

(Left: Workers resting in the afternoon; Right: Workers line up for meals) 

Persisting Labor Rights Violations

  • There are discriminatory hiring practices. Workers with a Shaoguan hukou (household register) are not hired as temporary workers and can only work as regular workers.
  • Workers are responsible for covering the cost of their pre-entry physical examination and are not reimbursed.
  • There is insufficient pre-job training and the length of training is far below the legally stipulated 24 hours.
  • Workers work an average of 75 overtime hours a month, greatly exceeding the legally stipulated maximum of 36 hours a month.
  • The factory has an unclear leave policy. Workers who were ill, were unable to take sick leave and could only take an unpaid regular leave.
  • Workers are provided insufficient personal protective equipment. The workshop has safety signs indicating the necessity of wearing hearing protection but management does not provide workers with any other equipment besides for cotton gloves and work uniforms.
  • There is no Environment, Health and Safety committee nor are workers provided any related training.
  • Workers were unaware of who their worker representative was as well as the functions of a union.
  • Workers reported being verbally abused by management.

In addition to contending with these substandard working conditions, regular workers only earn approximately 2,600 RMB ($379.12 USD) a month, while temporary workers earn a slightly higher average monthly wage of 3,100 RMB ($452.03 USD) as they do not make social insurance contributions. In comparison, the average annual wage in Shaoguan in 2017 was 65,739 RMB ($9,585.74 USD) or 5,478.25 RMB ($798.81 USD) a month. Workers are forced to rely on overtime wages to maintain a basic standard of living, which is difficult to do during the factory’s off-peak season.

The joy on a child’s face when they finally receive a long anticipated toy is immeasurable but their joy should not be at the expense of a factory worker’s wellbeing. It is imperative members of the public express their condemnation of these unfair practices and for brand companies to ensure their supplier codes of conduct are being upheld and to swiftly address the issues raised in CLW’s report.

(Left: Dorm room interior; Right: Shower room) 

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