Wal-Mart Standards Fail in China, Worker Rights Abused, Report Shows

Nov 25, 2009, 10:50 ET from China Labor Watch

NEW YORK, Nov 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Workers making shoes, Christmas lights, tools, curtains and paper boxes sold at Wal-Mart stores labor in illegal and degrading conditions. China Labor Watch's latest investigation of five Wal-Mart supplier factories reveals that not a single factory has implemented Wal-Mart's basic standards, and a total of 10,000 workers included in the report suffer serious rights abuses.

"This is not about a single factory, but about Wal-Mart's inability to implement its standards," says CLW Executive Director, Li Qiang. In the report, CLW attributes this failure to ineffective auditing and a pricing structure that forces factories to sell goods at unsustainable prices. As the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart leverages its massive product orders to purchase goods at low prices, and workers suffer the financial burden.

As Wal-Mart gears up for holiday sales, workers at all five factories work at least 3 hours of overtime/day, for 100-140 total hours of overtime/month, and one factory routinely schedules overtime through the night. Two of the factories illegally underpay overtime wages at rates as low as $0.44/hour, and two withhold wages from workers who fail to meet production quotas. Workers' low wages are further undermined by excessive fines and unpaid days off or maternity leave, and some workers cannot even purchase social security!

Worker abuse extends beyond paychecks. Workers at two factories are denied gloves on the grounds that it will slow production. Dormitory conditions are so poor that at one factory, there is no running water in the bathrooms. Canteen meals are extremely poor and workers often complain of hunger pangs, and one factory forbids workers from leaving the factory to eat. Worst of all, two of the factories have rules forcing workers to lie to Wal-Mart auditors, forcing workers into silence as Wal-Mart turns a blind eye to sweatshop conditions.

Violations at these randomly selected factories represent poor conditions across Wal-Mart's supply chain in China. Wal-Mart has already pledged to remediate these five factories. But with tens of thousands of Wal-Mart supplier factories in China, CLW does not seek a piecemeal approach to factory remediation. Rather, CLW urges Wal-Mart to address its systematic failure to purchase goods made in legal conditions, according to its own basic standards.

To read the report, visit www.chinalaborwatch.org.

SOURCE China Labor Watch