Since our founding in 2005, Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) has been concerned about the labour conditions of Disney’s supplier factories in China. Our earlier investigation revealed frequent work injuries in these factories, and a number of employees’ fingers had been cut off due to ageing equipment. Disney responded by introducing some changes to factories and making their list of factories public. Yet a “fairy-tale ending” has yet to be realized: 10 years later, our new investigative report finds that the employees still hardly make ends meet, with considerable risk of getting injured.
This report is based on our investigation of eight of Disney’s Chinese supplier factories from July 2015 to February 2016. Besides becoming undercover front-line workers, the investigators also interviewed the workers, in the neighborhood and in hospitals. It was shown that three factories had a high occurrence of work injuries, especially Xianxing factory, which produced thermos mugs for Disney. One of Xianxing factory’s departments recorded a dozen accidents within one month. Employees’ fingers were cut off or injured because of insufficient training and ageing equipment. However, the employer did not provide them with proper compensation, clearly violating the law. Besides work injuries, workers were exposed to the threats of chemicals, dust and noise. And it was found that the employers neither informed workers about the potential risks to health, nor gave them training or protective gear.
Our research also discovered that the working hours of employees in these eight factories were surprisingly long and that some workers even worked 144 hours of overtime per month. Worse still, employers did not pay employees overtime wages and workers were fined if they went on leave. Long working hours not only did physical harm to workers, but also made them more prone to injuries due to weariness.
It was shown that many employees did not sign an official contract, which is a breach of law. Due to a lack of an official contract, the benefits, salary and rights of workers were not clearly stipulated and guaranteed. Besides, the employers of the eight factories did not make their contributions to workers’ social insurance – that is, they infringed on the workers’ right of access to medical, retirement and unemployment protection.
Our study also exposes that only three out of eight factories claimed to have trade unions. Yet these trade unions were not representative at all, as their executive members were not directly or indirectly elected by the workers.
The so-called ‘corporate social responsibility’ of Disney was proved to be a failure. Disney told the public that it would monitor its suppliers, but in our investigation it was found that the factories were informed before the arrival of Disney’s auditors. Knowing the time and subject of the audit, the factories were able to hide things in advance, and the genuine labour conditions could not be uncovered.
Disney, as the world second-largest media conglomerate, expecting its new Shanghai Disneyland to open on 16 June, has a responsibility to improve the labour conditions of its 1400 suppliers in China. It is an injustice to generate huge profits by exploiting workers, and we therefore demand that Disney address the problem immediately.
Based on the findings listed above, we demand that Disney take the following actions at its supplier factories:
1. Shorten workers’ working hours and give them rest days and holidays as required by law, increase the basic wages and overall income and pay legal overtime wages, as income should reflect the value of their labour.
2. Replace outdated and unsafe protective devices and upgrade machinery. New workers must receive training on safety and operation of machinery for one week to half a month. Pay injured workers for their lost income, medical expenses, nutrition fees and other relevant compensation as required by law.
3. Ensure manufacturers use chemicals which are not poisonous to human bodies, provide adequate protective gear to workers and arrange medical check-ups for them every half year.
4. Make sure manufacturers sign legal labour contracts with workers and pay for all workers’ social insurance contributions in accordance with the law.
5. Stop manufacturers from fining workers, and improve living conditions and catering services in the factories.
6. Ban the use of child labour; prohibit paying temporary workers wages lower than the local legal minimum wages; employ dispatched workers (via labour agency) and students as regular workers; and adopt an “equal pay for equal work” principle.
7. Organize a trade union at each facility whose executive committee is democratically elected by workers.
8. Disclose all suppliers’ names and addresses; and allow the media and the public to monitor and examine the labour conditions at those suppliers.