Guangzhou factory is abusing workers: report

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 February, 2007, 12:00am

US rights group accuses Kaisi Metal of running a sweatshop

A Guangzhou factory that supplies furniture parts for companies in the US has been accused by an American rights group of abusing its employees and forcing them to work in sweatshop conditions.

Kaisi Metal, one of three factories run by Kaisi International Hardware in Guangzhou, had 'violated every single labour law in China', according to a report by the New York-based National Labour Committee. It allegedly failed to provide a safe working environment for its 700 workers and regularly overworked and failed to pay them.

The report details an array of abuses allegedly suffered by workers at the factory in Nanshan district. It said workers routinely had to toil for 14 to 15 hours a day, but could only get two or three Sundays off each month.

Some employees had to work more than 100 hours a week, exceeding China's legal limit by 344 per cent, the report said. Many were paid less than 780 yuan a month, which is the minimum level set by Guangzhou authorities.

The report said factory managers had withheld a month's pay for all workers to make it harder for them to quit.

Long hours and dangerous working conditions had resulted in a rising number of industrial accidents at the factory - leaving many workers handicapped or badly injured. Last September alone, five workers suffered serious injuries at the factory - including the loss of limbs. The labour committee interviewed several workers who had lost hands or arms. It said the management had also failed to arrange health insurance for workers as required by law.

This is not the first time Kaisi has come under fire for its working conditions. Guangzhou labour authorities recently criticised the factory for serious health and safety violations.

Kaisi produces metal fittings for furniture and supplies parts for several large US companies. Labour committee staff found parts produced at Kaisi for sale in the home improvement department store Home Depot.

The committee accused American importers and companies of turning a blind eye to the obvious rights abuses. Its director Charles Kernaghan, who worked on the report, said: '[US companies] have not uttered a single word about the young workers who have been seriously injured and maimed while working on their products, whose lives have been destroyed.

However, the report urged US companies not to cancel their orders with the factory, saying this would only further punish the workers. It said the firms should keep their production in the factory while working with management to clean up the plant.

It urged American companies that have factories in China to release the names and addresses of these businesses to the media to ensure similar problems were not being hidden.

Kaisi Metal managers could not be reached for comment.