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CHINA: Group reports harsh working conditions at Bratz factory

Associated Press
December 22nd, 2006

The pouty Bratz dolls so popular as Christmas presents are made at a factory in southern China where workers are obliged to toil up to 94 hours a week, among other violations, a labor rights group said in a report released Friday.

The report by U.S.-based China Labor Watch and the National Labor Committee details allegations of harsh working conditions, especially during peak delivery months, and of violations of workers' rights to injury and health insurance.

The edgy, urban-styled rival to Barbie is made by a subcontractor in the southern export hub of Shenzhen, as is typical of many products sold in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Workers are paid the equivalent of 17 cents for each doll. The dolls retail for $16 a piece or more, the report said.

Los Angeles-based MGA Entertainment Inc., which launched Bratz in 2001, said Friday it is “not familiar with the company named in this report.

“MGA uses first rate factories in the Orient to make its goods,” the company said in a statement. “The same factories make products for the world's biggest toy manufacturers including Mattel and Hasbro.”

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer and a major distributor of the Bratz dolls, said it was investigating the situation.

“Wal-Mart has a credible ethical standards program and we are committed to sourcing merchandise for our stores that has been produced in an ethical manner,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Amy Wyatt.

The allegations in the report describe practices found at many Chinese factories producing name-brand products for export. They include required overtime exceeding the legal maximum of 36 hours a month, forcing workers to stay on the job to meet stringent production quotas and the denial of paid sick leave and other benefits.

The report shows copies of what it says are “cheat sheets” distributed to workers before auditors from Wal-Mart or other customers arrive to ensure the factory passes inspections intended to ensure the supplier meets labor standards.

It said workers at the factory intended to go on strike soon to protest plans by factory managers to put all employees on temporary contracts, denying them of legal protection required for long-term employees.

More than 120 million Bratz dolls have been sold since the toy debuted in 2001.




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