The Walt Disney Co. said it will investigate claims by a labor rights advocacy group of unsafe conditions at Chinese factories that make books for Disney.

(Reuters) -- The Walt Disney Co. said it will investigate claims by a labor rights advocacy group of unsafe conditions at Chinese factories that make books for Disney.

The National Labor Committee said the factories forced employees to work 10- to 13-hour work days and paid them below the legal minimum wage.

Disney said in a statement it had contacted Verite, a non-profit social auditing and training firm, to conduct an investigation of the claims.

In New York, the NLC released a videotape of people with faces obscured to hide their identities who said they were workers at the Hung Hing printing factory in Shenzhen province and faced dangerous conditions.

The footage was provided to the committee by a Hong Kong human rights group called Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior.

The group of university students and academics interviewed 120 workers in four factories in China's southern province of Guangdong between May and August this year and found that they were forced to work a minimum of 12 hours a day.

If they refused to work overtime, their pay would be withheld or deducted, the study found. In return, the workers were paid 2.70 yuan (33 U.S. cents) an hour, well below the minimum wage of 3.33 yuan per hour required by law in the districts where they worked.

"At one printing factory producing Disney books, there are four to five accidents a week. People have lost their fingers and palms," said Billy Hung, coordinator of the group.

"But instead of doing something about the machines, the factory just hires new workers," Hung told Reuters in a telephone interview on Aug. 19. "And the accidents simply continue."

NLC director Charles Kernaghan said Disney should make public the names of the factories that make its consumer goods and its process for ensuring safe and fair labor conditions.

"Disney has its own code of conduct but these manufacturers may not be telling the truth," Hung said.

"These practices must stop, especially the industrial accidents."

Disney said in a statement that it takes the claims "very seriously" and that it conducts regular audits of the factories that produce Disney-branded merchandise.

The company said it will work closely with Verite and "take the appropriate actions to remediate violations found."

Disney spokesmen in Hong Kong were not immediately available for comment.

Disney will throw open the doors of its new theme park in Hong Kong on Sept. 12, but in the months leading up to the event the company has been dogged by negative publicity.

Its insistence on serving sharks' fin soup at restaurants at the park riled conservationists and the company was finally forced to back down.

The public was also dismayed when it learned that more than 40 stray dogs at the park were rounded up and put down.

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