Severe Labor Abuses in the Cookware Industry, says China Labor Watch

Feb 04, 2016, 11:32 ET from China Labor Watch

NEW YORK, Feb. 4, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A multi-month in-depth investigation has exposed numerous violations of labor regulations and human rights in five Chinese cookware factories supplying to top brands and retailers, including Macy's, Walmart, Kohl's, Carrefour, IKEA, Cuisinart, Tupperware, WMF, Kuhn Rikon, and others. The 73-page report [PDF], titled "Dirty Frying Pans", was a collaboration between China Labor Watch (CLW) and Solidar Suisse.

Undercover research and worker interviews revealed that the five factories, together employing over 5,000 workers, are plagued by illegal and unfair working conditions that include labor contract violations, a lack of paid leave or required insurances, mandatory overtime without overtime pay, unpaid wages, fines on workers, poor occupational safety measures, and insufficient living conditions. Many workers were covered in metallic dust and regularly handle toxic chemicals with minimal protection. Undercover investigations also revealed industrial waste water being discharged directly into local water sources, in one case turning a river opaquely white from the pollutants.

These abusive practices are utilized as cost cutting measures to maximize profits for factories and, in turn, multinational buyers at the expense of workers.

Many of the international buyers of these cookware factories use social auditing to ostensibly ensure compliance with their labor standards or codes of conduct. But CLW recorded documentation or conduct at each factory which influences the validity of those audits, including fraudulent training records, pay stubs, or safety measures. At one factory, an investigator even witnessed a buyer inspection which resulted in the factory bribing the auditor for a passing mark.

Even if the audits are sometimes accurate, the dismal working conditions detailed in this report clearly demonstrates a failure of corporate social responsibility when buyers do not institute sufficient reforms in their dealings with supplier factories.

We call on brand and retailer buyers to take steps outlined in the report to remedy current violations and prevent future abuses, including: releasing a full list of suppliers, strengthening monitoring of labor conditions through a worker hotline managed by an independent local NGO, and having Chinese suppliers invite the local union to train workers before hosting a direct election of worker representatives.

Full 73-page report [PDF]

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SOURCE China Labor Watch