New Olympic crisis: mascot factory shock

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Olympic mascotsSteve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Chinese activists have claimed that Olympic mascot toys of Wenlock and Mandeville are being made in sweatshops, where workers are on shifts of up to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, sometimes in hazardous environments.

So just what are they claiming?

The claims

A group of activists in Hong Kong, called Sacom (Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour) have published a report claiming a long list of horrors at the factories producing the mascots. It has contrasted the whimsical tale behind the mascots - that they are made by a retired steel worker who had been working on the Olympic stadium - with the dire conditions that the toys are actually made in.

The toys are expected to make millions at the Olympics and sell for anything from £7 for a badge to up to £26 for a towel and soft toy set. But the glossy world of the gift shop is a long way from the conditions the report describes. It has said that workers are on shifts of up to 12 hours a day, working six days a week. It investigated four souvenir manufacturers in China and say they found a number of appalling conditions.


The conditions

This included factories where there was no minimum wage for workers - which meant workers could make as little as £6 a day - overtime payments were substandard and were often twice or three times the national standard - with workers sometimes staying until midnight. Wages were paid a month after the work was done.

In one factory, workers who fell asleep lost 2-4 hours wages, while at another any worker who was five minutes late for work would lose half a day's pay.

In some places the environment was found to be hazardous, including paint-spraying conditions that workers complained made them feel sick.

LOCOG

When LOCOG ran the official tendering process, it was clear that poor conditions would not be tolerated, and it issued ethical rules for suppliers. However, the activists said that the rules were being flouted. They called on the International Olympic Committee to put a system in place to protect workers producing goods for future Games.

According to the Guardian, a LOCOG spokesman responded to the report, saying: "We place a high priority on environmental, social and ethical issues when securing goods and services. Both factories that the report references have been reviewed by Locog. Locog recently instructed an independent audit of the Xinda factory and no such issues were found. Regarding the Shiwei factory, Locog has undertaken a full review of Golden Bear's [official supplier of Olympic merchandise for London 2012] ethical trade management systems. Golden Bear has now fully committed to implementing all recommendations of that review and is in process of reviewing all factories in its supply chain."

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