The Olympic games are about to begin, and with that excitement comes the mass marketing of the Olympic mascots, toys and clothing. A new study has just been released by Chinese activists that reveal many of the figures and toys produced for the Olympics have been produced in illegal sweatshop conditions that have left workers in dangerous conditions, unhealthy and exhausted.
Many of the workers in the report stated that their saliva had changed color from paint fumes after spending an entire day on the factory floor painting figurines, the Guardian reports. The report was issued by the Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, which is a Hong Kong-based human rights group. They reported that the fine mist of paint in the air caused a hazardous working condition.
The workers were also forced to work overtime, sometimes as much as 120 extra hours a month. As the Guardian notes:
managers would fine them half a day’s wages if they were five minutes late…If they were more than five minutes late they would be fined one-and-a-half day’s salary for causing a “work stoppage”. Two work stoppages led to a six-day salary deduction.
One of the figurines, a plush Great Britain team icon, called Pride the Lion retails for £20 ($31). Workers are paid about 35 cents for every hour they work. And workers tend to work about 90 hours a week under these conditions, the UK’s Sun reports.
The stuffed animals require skilled, deft fingers to sew around the edges of the figure and workers are expected to stoop over their sewing machines constantly. These mascots are produced by Golden Bear, the official supplier of all the London Olympic merchandise in 2012, and all the work has been consistently outsourced to China.
Current Chinese labor laws forbid more than 36 hours of overtime per month and workers are clocking up to four times that amount. The human rights report done by the Chinese researchers concluded that Olympics standards should be set so that these kinds of work conditions are not repeated. Quoted in the Guardian the report states:
The rampant rights violations reveal that Locog codes are really no more than lip service with no commitment to the enforcement of labour rights standards.
The IOC should establish a policy and action plan for future Olympic Games … adopt a code of conduct for the suppliers which should include terms like living wages, freedom of association and the right to remedy.
This newest report is only the most recent in a number of scandals surrounding the London Olympics. A few weeks ago it was announced that the U.S. team’s uniforms were produced in China, spurring on debates about the state of American manufacturing. It was also recently revealed that Olympic workers are forced to live in unhygenic and cramped quarters during their time working the events.
Photo Credit: Shichang Chen