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CHINA: McDonald's Fires Underage Workers

Associated Press
September 4th, 2000

HONG KONG -- Scores of underage workers hired in a mainland China factory that makes toys for McDonald's were fired following recent media reports about the situation, a Hong Kong labor-monitoring group said Monday.

Factory officials also threatened the teen-agers into lying about the conditions of their workplace if asked by inspectors, the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee said.

''They were told to move out within three days or else they'd be taken away by the police,'' said Monina Wong, spokeswoman for the group, which said it obtained its information by talking to some of the young workers.

McDonald's responded Monday with a statement saying the company takes the underage labor allegations seriously and is conducting an ''intensive, top-to-bottom inspection by a full-scale auditing team'' at the plant just across the border in Shenzhen.

McDonald's said it has interviewed 500 employees, and added that it has a strict policy for working conditions at plants run by its suppliers -- prohibiting child labor among other things -- and any company that does not comply can lose its business from McDonald's.

The story first appeared on Aug. 27 in the South China Morning Post, which said a reporter infiltrated the plant and interviewed a number of the workers who were as young as 14, working 16-hour days in spartan conditions that include crowded dorm rooms that contain wooden beds with no mattresses.

The minimum employment age in China is 16.

Some of the young workers were quoted by the Post as saying they lied about their age to gain employment at City Toys Ltd., the company that produces such items as Snoopy, Hello Kitty and Winnie the Pooh dolls sold with McDonald's meals.

An outside auditor employed by McDonald's declined comment, and Pleasure Tech Holdings Ltd., the company that operates the Shenzhen factory through its subsidiary, City Toys Ltd., did not return repeated phone calls.

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