manufacturing

‘Transformers’ toy producer slammed for worker conditions

COURTESY INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL LABOUR AND HUMAN RIGHTS
THE report, entitled “Holidays by Hasbro: Transformers From Hell,” looks at the conditions of workers at the Jet Fair factory in China, based on documents and photographs the institute claims were smuggled out of the factory.
Posted 12/21/11

(Updated, 8:30 a.m.)

PAWTUCKET – In a 25-page report detailing worker conditions at a factory in China that produces Transformers toys for Hasbro Inc., the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights asks:

“Why is it that you demand enforceable laws to protect your toys’ [intellectual property], while refusing to grant the human beings who make them [similarly enforceable] legal protections? If Hasbro executives can answer this question, I will profusely apologize to Hasbro and tear our report up into a thousand pieces,” report author Charles Kernaghan said.

The report, entitled “Holidays by Hasbro: Transformers From Hell,” looks at the conditions of workers at the Jet Fair factory, including documents and photographs the institute claims were smuggled out of the factory.

The Jet Fair factory has about 3,000 workers ranging in ages from 16 to 40, with about 60 percent of the work force being women, the report claims. The “majority” of its production for the last several months has been Transformers models for Hasbro.

The allegations against the factory include:

  • 70+ hour work weeks, with a take-home wage of 92 cents an hour.

  • Workers not allowed to take earned sick leave and maternity leave.

  • Workers in the spray paint department fear they are being exposed to dangerous solvents.

“Hasbro takes all claims involving working conditions very seriously, and we are immediately investigating,” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “The company has a strong track record and has had long-standing policies and processes in place for years to help ensure good working conditions, including health and safety, at factories making our products.”

“We strive to conduct business throughout our supply chain in accordance with the highest ethical standards, and we utilize not only ICTI [International Council of Toy Industries] - but also our own on-the-ground work force - to monitor social compliance,” she said, while pointing to Hasbro’s corporate social responsibility page.

“Hasbro would never even dream of allowing its toys made in China or elsewhere to be protected by voluntary codes of conduct,” the institute said. “If it is not good enough for a Transformer robot to be protected by Hasbro’s voluntary code of conduct, then why is it good enough for the human beings who make the company’s toys, often under gross and abusive sweatshop conditions while being paid pennies an hour?”

The full list of allegations included:

  • Workers housed in filthy, over-crowded dorms, infested with rats and bed bugs. Workers report they cannot sleep at night from the bed bug bites.

  • Workers describe factory food as “pretty much like swine food.”

  • Workers allowed less than 9 minutes to assemble each Hasbro Transformer, for which they are paid 17 cents.

  • “We are drenched in sweat,” workers say. Factory temperatures reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit in summer.

  • During peak season, workers work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, while earning a take-home wage of 92 cents an hour.

  • Workers undergo three body searches each day, are not permitted to talk or lift their heads to look around, and need permission to use the bathroom.

  • Hasbro is open to the hiring of 14 and 15-year-olds on a “case-by-case basis.” (The company spokeswoman said that Hasbro prohibits the use of child labor, and specifically mandates that no person shall be employed in a factory that produces or manufactures any Hasbro product at an age younger than sixteen, or younger than the age for completing compulsory education in the country of manufacture where such age is higher.)

  • Workers in the spray paint department fear they are being exposed to dangerous solvents.

  • There are no fire drills and some emergency exits are locked.

  • During the slow season, hundreds of workers are fired under false charges so management does not have to pay their legal severance.

  • Workers are not allowed to take earned sick leave and maternity leave.

  • Workers describe their work as mindless, miserable, constantly monotonous, yet furious and exhausting.

Updated to include comment from the Hasbro spokeswoman on the allegation of the company being "open to the hiring of 14 and 15-year-olds."

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