Retail chain giant Wal-Mart Stores has launched an investigation into the recent suicide of a female worker at the mainland plant of its Hong Kong die-cast toy car supplier, Winson Plastic Manufactory.

The investigation was initiated by the United States company following the reported suicide on May 16 of Hu Nianzhen, a 45-year-old employee who jumped from a building at Winson’s Sturdy Products Factory site in Shenzhen after allegedly being berated by the management.

“We take reports like this very seriously and we will implement a corrective action plan if our investigations confirm any of the findings,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Megan Murphy told the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) .

“As soon as we learned of the suicide at the Sturdy Products Factory, we immediately launched an investigation.”

Murphy said Wal-Mart was also in contact with the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI), a trade association that certifies legal compliance and decent working conditions in toy factories worldwide, which was pursuing a separate investigation.

Winson has about 6,000 employees at the mainland factory. The plant makes die-cast toy cars for Mattel’s Hot Wheels brand, Matchbox, Walt Disney and Wal-Mart.

Peter Cheng, the managing director of Winson, could not be reached for comment.

In a report, Hong Kong labour rights group Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom) said its off-site interviews last month with Sturdy Products employees revealed that they faced excessive overtime of up to four hours a day, had inadequate protective gear in chemical processes, were frequently yelled at by managers, and denied the right to obtain social insurance.

Sacom spokeswoman Debby Chan Sze-wan said ICTI’s certification system was “bogus” and failed to protect workers’ rights. “Many factories can get a seal of compliance despite a wide range of labour law violations,” she said.

South China Morning Post | 2011-07-12  |BIZ3| BIZ
By Bien Perez