Olympic factories accused of labor violations

Chinese flag

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS:Organizers of the Beijing Olympics are red-faced today. An organization of global trade union and labor groups called PlayFair 2008 says four factories in southern China are guilty of labor violations. Among those accusations? The use of under-age children.

Scott Tong is the Marketplace Shanghai correspondent. I asked him about some of the other charges made by PlayFair.

SCOTT TONG:The authors of this report looked in to companies that make Olympic logo stuff — hats, backpacks, address books, stationery. And one of the big complaints was being underpaid. Forced overtime was another accusation — 13- or 14-hour days, from some of the information they've collected. Child labor, as you mentioned — one of the companies was accused of having a 12-year-old working there.

THOMAS:This is obviously embarrassing for the Olympic organizing committee... Have they said what they plan to do in response to these accusations?

TONG:Today, the Beijing organizing committee for the Olympics said they would begin an investigation, and if they found any violations, they would take what they call "severe actions." And one of them could be canceling the contracts. The International Olympic Committee has said that they don't have direct control over the factories that make some of this -- but that they have standards that they would like the factories to follow. But they say they can't always promise that those standards are followed in the field.

THOMAS:Scott, are corporate sponsors going to care about this report?

TONG:Corporate sponsors always care about the image of the Olympics that they're sponsoring. And on one hand, this is embarrassing to them, because they're connected to the Olympics — they've got commercials on TV that are coming. On the other hand, these companies all have their contingency plans in place if there's bad news that comes out of the Olympics. And this is certainly consistent with what they're ready for.

THOMAS:Scott Tong is a Marketplace Shanghai correspondent — thanks, Scott.

TONG:OK Mark, you're welcome.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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