World Cup mascot factory told to halt output over poor working conditions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2015, 4:38pm


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A Shanghai factory employing low-paid migrant workers has had its contract to make souvenir mascots for the 2010 football World Cup suspended following a report into factory conditions in the Sunday Morning Post.

The Global Brands Group, which awarded the contract to make 2.3 million souvenirs of official mascot Zakumi, said last week it had called for production to stop until conditions had improved.

The decision follows a report in the Post last month looking into conditions at Shanghai Fashion Plastic Products, where workers said they earned a basic salary of 800 yuan (HK$900) a month and had 160 yuan deducted for bed and board.

The report included interviews with workers about conditions and long working hours, and showed how waste from the painting process ran from the factory into a stinking canal, putrid with industrial discharge.

Boasting about how he wished he could make a million more of the figurines that will sell for the equivalent of 300 yuan each, the factory's chief executive officer David Lau told a reporter posing as a trader: 'I'm not a big fan of football - but I am a big fan of money.'

The Global Brands Group, licensed to make official World Cup products, said it conducted an audit of the company following the revelations and found it failed to meet the standards required of the supplier.

'The approval for this factory to manufacture these figurines has been temporarily suspended, affording them the opportunity to put in place corrective actions and measures,' the Global Brands Group.

Revelations about the factory conditions were met with fury by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which said they 'illustrate the terrible extent to which the World Cup and soccer generally has been hijacked by big business'.

The congress accused Fifa of 'turning the people's game into a gigantic profit-generating scam' and said: 'We are outraged that huge profits will be made by exploiting low-paid Chinese workers.'

Shanghai Fashion Plastic Products has rejected the criticisms, insisting its working conditions are good, that it has broken no labour laws and has never been reprimanded over labour issues before.

Responding to news of the action by Global Brands Group, Samantha Maher of British-based pressure group Labour Behind the Label accused Fifa of washing its hands of the problem by merely suspending the contract.

'I can't imagine they will hold off production for long because they will be on a tight schedule to get these mascots on the shelves in time for the World Cup,' she said.

'If Fifa really cared about these workers, it would be on the ground, talking to them and their representatives and doing all it could to improve their lives both now and for future production.

'Fifa and other brands that make their money on one-off big events need to throw their weight around before they give the order. If they had checked the factory properly, this situation would never have arisen.'

Hard toil

The monthly amount, in yuan, workers are being paid to produce 2.3 million souvenirs of World Cup mascot Zakumi: 800