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CHINA: Labor rights group reports riot at China factory producing toys for McDonald's

Forbes
July 27th, 2006

More than 1,000 workers rioted over poor working conditions at a factory in southern China which produces toys for McDonald's and other firms, a US labor rights group said.

The incident began on Saturday last week when workers at the Hengli Factory in Guangdong province protested over meager wages, lack of public holidays and poor living conditions, the New York-based China Labor Watch said.

The protest in Dongguan city began in workers dorms and evolved into a riot that stretched into the night and Sunday, involving more than 1,000 of the factory's workers, the labor watchdog said in a statement.

It took more than 100 factory policemen, riot squads and security guards to control the situation. Many people were injured and dozens of workers were arrested, according to China Labor Watch.

An official at the Hong Kong-based Merton Co Ltd, which owns the factory, told Agence France-Presse there had been an incident but refused to comment on the specific allegations.

'It's not convenient for us to reveal any information,' said Yammie Chiu, a secretary at the company. 'This type of incident has never happened before.'

According to China Labor Watch's investigation, employees at the factory typically work 11 hours a day, six days a week, and rack up to 70 hours of overtime a month.

This violates China's labor law, which stipulates workers shall not work for more than 40 hours a week and 35 hours of overtime a month, it said.

The factory deducts salary if workers refuse to work overtime and does not pay workers for taking national holidays, vacation or sick leave, according to the group.

Overtime is not paid 1.5 times the regular rate as required by the law, it said. There is no base salary for workers, who are paid at piece rate.

Salaries range between 600 and 800 yuan (75 and 100 usd) a month.

But workers told China Labor Watch's investigator that they must pay 250 yuan for food and accommodation, and complained of the factory's meals being of poor quality.

Merton also failed to provide workers with adequate medical insurance or pensions, according to the rights group.

According to the interviewed workers, 50 percent of Mertons products were manufactured for McDonalds.

According to Merton's website, the factory has 10,000 employees producing plastic toys. The company exports to the US and Canada to companies such as McDonald's, Disney, Mattel, Warner and DC Comics, the website said.

Carol Chan, a senior consultant for McDonald's public relations company Hill and Knowlton, told AFP the fast food giant did not have an immediate response because its Hong Kong office had to check with its global headquarters.

However she confirmed Merton did supply products to McDonald's and that the matter is being looked at.

'The factory makes toys for McDonald's restaurants not just in Hong Kong but also in other countries ... McDonald's is looking into this matter,' Chan said.

Local police and the industrial park where the factory is located denied knowledge of the incident.



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