The animation “Out of the Rainbow” tells the story that Wenlock & Mandeville are made by a retiring steelworker who is working on the building of the Olympic stadium in London. In fact, the adventure of Wenlock & Mandeville begins in the sweatshops of China. There, the workershave to toil 11-12 hours a day, 6 days a week in the factories to produce the London Olympic mascots. Sometimes, workers have to work from the morning till midnight, their own marathons. Yet, no one will cheer for the sweat and blood of these workers because consumers simply don’t know the realities of life at the factories supplying the London Olympics.

Any Olympic Games is more than a spectacular sports event. For the organizing committees of the respective countries, the bid for the Olympic Games is a strictly business operation. More than £1 billion is expected from the sales of London 2012 merchandise. To ensure the London Olympic souvenirs are sweat-free, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG)issued sustainable and ethical sourcing codes in 2008. The codes aim to have the London Olympics products produced under internationally acceptable social standards. However, LOCOG’s own procedures are far from transparent and they have refused to disclose a list of the manufacturers and factories supplying the products. In 2011, Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) had to go to great efforts to identify the LOCOG suppliers. As a result, we investigated Yancheng Rainbow Arts and Crafts Company, a manufacturer of Wenlock, Mandeville and Pride-the-Lion goods in Dafeng City, Jiangsu Province, China. Workers there were denied copies of their labour contracts, there was no minimum wage for workers, overtime premiums were not paid in accordance with legal standards, salaries were paid one month in arrears and overtime work exceeded 2, or even 3,times the legal limit. At the same time, SACOM contributed research findings to the Play Fair Campaign on working conditions at 2 LOCOG suppliers at which the situation was equally awful. Underpayment, excessive overtime time, hazardous work environment and even child labour was found. The findings at these 3 factories demonstrated that labour rights were being trampled on by the LOCOG suppliers.

With mounting pressure from Play Fair Campaign and other labour rights groups, LOCOG issued the supplier list in February – after much of the production of merchandise had been finished. In May and June, SACOM investigated another 2 LOCOG souvenir manufacturing factories, namely Dongguan Xinda Giftware Co. Ltd. (Xinda) and Shenzhen Baoan Gongming Jiangshi Shiwei Toys Factory (Shiwei). SACOM is disappointed that LOCOG has not cleaned up the unethical labour practices at 2 factories after several investigative reports slamming the labour rights abuses at LOCOG suppliers. The rampant rights violations reveal that the LOCOG codes are really no more than lip service with no commitment to the enforcement of labour rights standards. The following are the key labour rights abuses at the 2 factories:

Meager wages and delayed payment of wages:

– Both Xinda and Shiwei only pay a basic salary to workers at the level of the minimum wage.

– Overtime premium constitutes 40-50% overall salary of workers.

– Workers can only receive their salary at the end of the following month in both factories.

Excessive overtime:

– In both factories, workers have 11-12 hours shift a day, 6 days a week.

– Overtime work is up to 120 hours per month.

At Shiwei, sometimes, workers have to work till midnight.

Poor work safety:

– Workers are exposed to hazardous working environments without adequate protective equipment. At Xinda, some workers have to bring their own masks to work.

– Irritating smell in the paint-spraying department makes workers feel sick.

– Workers’ hands are always tainted with paint. Some workers complain that even their salivahas the colour of the paint.

Denial of social insurance:

– At both factories, only a small number of workers participated in the pension scheme.

– Most of the workers are not sure if their employers pay for their work-related injury insurance.

Punitive fines imposed:

– At Xinda, workers who doze off during work will lose 2-4 hours’ wages.

– At Shiwei, being late for 5 minutes will lead to half-day salary deduction; not wearing a cap will bring a fine of CNY 60.

Bogus union:

– Workers do not know about the existence of the union at the factory.

For the details of the research findings, please refer to p.4-14 of the report.

LOCOG and the licensees are not the only parties to blame. The mascot, soft toys and figurine manufacturers mentioned above have been inspected by the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) CARE Process and have passed the audits. However, the certification programme fails to guarantee even legal compliance at these LOCOG suppliers, let alonedecent working conditions. Even worse, the blatant violations at ICTI-certified factories are not individual incidents but systematic problems. The factory inspections, without the presence of genuine trade unions, are only window-dressing measures.

The opening ceremony of the London Olympics will be on 27 July 2012. There is now little point in pushing for reform of LOCOG. To stop the repetition of these unethical labour rights practices, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should establish a policy and action plan for future Olympic Games. SACOM demands that the IOC:

– adopt a code of conduct for the suppliers which should include terms like living wages, freedom

of association and the right to remedy;

– publish the full list of suppliers to its license holders;

– conduct selective investigations at the licensees’ suppliers to examine the level of compliance

and publicise the reports;

– require the licensees to ensure that every worker, at every supplier, receives a copy of this code; and

– work with the licensees to launch remedial actions in any factory where rights violations are

found.


[1] Please refer to SACOM’s report titled LOCOG’s Empty Promise to Respect Labour Rights: Olympic mascots made in sweatshops. The report is available at http://sacom.hk/archives/922.

[2] For the details of the report, please see Play Fair Campaign’s report, Toying with Workers’ Right, January 2012, http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/play_fair_en_final.pdf.

The full report is available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/100910480/2012-07-24-Story-of-Wenlock-Mandeville.