Target's suppliers use under-age labour: watchdog

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 August, 2011, 12:00am


Three mainland suppliers of giant US retailer Target have been accused by a workers' rights group of violating child labour regulations.

China Labor Watch claimed that its investigation last month uncovered the violations at the factories of Ningbo Lucky Craft Co, Hangzhou Ownseas Pen Co and Dongguan Fuxiang Garment (B&N Industrial) Co.

In a 30-page report released yesterday, the New York-based workers' advocacy group alleged that the factories of those three Target suppliers employed labourers as young as 15 years old to make toys, pens and clothing for Target.

It alleged that these labourers were being made to work between 11 and 13 hours a day 'in return for little compensation'.

It said they perform the same tasks as adult workers, including doing jobs 'under very dangerous conditions and operating industrial assembly machinery with little or no safety equipment or training'.

The mainland's Compulsory Education Law prohibits companies from hiring school-age children or adolescents for full-time jobs. This law covers minors, defined as those under the age of 16, who are supposed to be in school.

'While each of these factories actively deny and hide the existence of these child labourers, it is na?ve to believe that Target and other global companies are not aware of their presence on the assembly line,' said Li Qiang, the executive director of China Labor Watch.

He estimated that there could be as many as 100,000 under-age labourers employed by factories in the mainland's southern and coastal provinces.

No response was received yesterday from inquiries made to Minnesota-based Target's spokeswoman for corporate social responsibility and the company's public relations office.

Zhenhai-based Ningbo Lucky Craft, founded in 1990, makes foam toys, rubber balls, plastic toys and mobile phone cradles.

China Labor Watch alleged that most of its under-age labourers were found in its foam, trimming and packaging workshops.

China Labor Watch claimed that both Hangzhou Ownseas Pen, which was established in 2001 and makes different types of ball pens, and clothing maker Dongguan Fuxiang Garment, founded in 1994, openly recruit under-age workers.

To conceal the presence of child labourers in the factories from outside auditors, these workers are allegedly not issued factory identification cards or given the opportunity to sign a labour contract, according to the report.

The findings of China Labor Watch follow a scandal in March when at least 40 children, aged 12 to 14 years, were rescued by police from work in an electronics factory in Shenzhen's Longgang district.

Debby Chan Sze-wan, a spokeswoman for Hong Kong labour rights group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour, has said that child labour issues persisted in mainland factories, despite the social-compliance programmes implemented by large foreign buyers.