Wal-Mart starts probe on suicide at Shenzhen plant

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2011, 12:00am


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Retail chain giant Wal-Mart Stores has launched an investigation into the recent suicide of a female worker at the mainland plant of its Hong Kong die-cast toy car supplier, Winson Plastic Manufactory.

The investigation was initiated by the United States company following the reported suicide on May 16 of Hu Nianzhen, a 45-year-old employee who jumped from a building at Winson's Sturdy Products Factory site in Shenzhen after allegedly being berated by the management.

'We take reports like this very seriously and we will implement a corrective action plan if our investigations confirm any of the findings,' Wal-Mart spokeswoman Megan Murphy told the South China Morning Post.

'As soon as we learned of the suicide at the Sturdy Products Factory, we immediately launched an investigation.'

Murphy said Wal-Mart was also in contact with the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI), a trade association that certifies legal compliance and decent working conditions in toy factories worldwide, which was pursuing a separate investigation.

Winson has about 6,000 employees at the mainland factory. The plant makes die-cast toy cars for Mattel's Hot Wheels brand, Matchbox, Walt Disney and Wal-Mart.

Peter Cheng, the managing director of Winson, could not be reached for comment.

In a report, Hong Kong labour rights group Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom) said its off-site interviews last month with Sturdy Products employees revealed that they faced excessive overtime of up to four hours a day, had inadequate protective gear in chemical processes, were frequently yelled at by managers, and denied the right to obtain social insurance.

Sacom spokeswoman Debby Chan Sze-wan said ICTI's certification system was 'bogus' and failed to protect workers' rights. 'Many factories can get a seal of compliance despite a wide range of labour law violations,' she said.