Disney has long emphasized magic in its products. Yet, for workers in Disney’s supplier factories in China, this magic has never worked. In reality, these workers are exploited by Disney: facing risks of having their fingers crushed by the old machinery and being exposed to chemicals and dust, they work long hours but earn low wages. These people have put in a great deal of effort to produce products, thus helping to sustain and spread the fantasy woven by Disney. However, their contribution has never been acknowledged – they even lack a proper and legitimate remuneration.
Mizutani (Shenzhen) Toy Factory Co. Ltd. (hereafter: Mizutani), a Hong Kong registered enterprise which mainly produced toys for Tokyo Disneyland, abruptly announced closure and relocation of its Shenzhen plant to the Philippines in June, 2015, at the request of Disney. According to China’s Labour Contract Law and Social Insurance Law, Mizutani still owed its 196 employees a total of 9 million Yuan of social insurance contribution, economic compensation (severance compensation) and housing provident fund. However, Disney only agreed to pay workers 500 yuan for each year of service as a “living allowance”, which was less than one tenth of the actual compensation amount. With the assistance of trade unions and labour organisations, workers made repeated requests for a meeting with Disney over the past year. But Disney turned a blind eye to them.
In fact, workers in other Chinese supplier factories of Disney face the same exploitation. On 14th June, 2016, Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) issued an investigative report, revealing the poor working conditions of workers in Disney’s supplier factories in China: workers worked over 10 hours a day on average, with 1 day off a week. Some even worked 144 hours of overtime in a month, exceeding the legal limit of 36 hours a month as prescribed by Chinese Labour Law.
Besides employers’ request, the extremely low basic wage and per piece rate left workers with no choice but to work long hours in order to make ends meet. Long working hours, as well as old equipment and insufficient training, made workers more prone to injuries – a dozen accidents occurred within one month in one of the investigated factory’s departments. Worse still, injured workers were not properly compensated.
In a separate report, an investigation by China Labor Watch echoed that of SACOM’s, citing issues including long working hours, low wages and exposure to chemicals.
The labour organisations staged a protest at Disney’s CSR office in Hong Kong, calling for Disney to help Mizutani workers claim their missing compensation and to also improve the labour conditions in Chinese supplier factories. Again, Disney not only refused to comment, but also rejected to accept the petition.
It has been one month since the release of the reports – Shanghai Disneyland has already opened its doors to create a “magical” experience for thousands of visitors. But for the plight of Chinese workers and demands of labour organisations, Disney has still “kept their doors tightly shut”.
“Our dream comes true”, said Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive at the opening ceremony of Shanghai Disneyland. But what about the dreams of workers?
Disney blatantly violated Chinese law and its International Labour Standards Programme – which required all its suppliers to follow local laws – and have shown a complete disregard for the lives of workers. We are enraged.
As the world’s second-largest media conglomerate, Disney ‘s revenue was over 130.05 billion in 2014, which is 3.14 million times a worker’s annual income at one of its supplier factories. Indisputably, this considerable revenue comes from workers’ contributions, and there is no reason for Disney not to protect them.
We demand Disney and its suppliers to implement the following:
1) Respond to the problems depicted by the investigative reports and open talks with workers and labour organisations
2) Fulfill its promise to protect workers’ rights across the supply chain: to investigate the Mizutani case and to help their workers claim their missing compensation, including double severance calculated by wages payable, in addition to premiums of workers’ social insurance and contributions to the housing provident fund (since commencement date of employment). If Mizutani fails to do so, Disney should bear responsibility for ineffective supervision, and compensate workers directly
3) Disney should introduce comprehensive changes to the labour conditions of supplier factories:
a) increase basic wage and overall income, pay overtime payments, ensure manufacturers sign official labour contracts with workers and make contributions to social insurance;
b) replace old machinery and provide workers with protective equipment and training, pay injured workers appropriate compensation;
c) ban the use of child labour, and adopt “equal pay for equal work” for dispatched and student workers;
d) organise a trade union at each facility in which the executive committee is democratically elected by workers;
e) disclose names and addresses of all Disney’s suppliers and allow the media and public to monitor
Signed by (in no particular order):
Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour
China Labor Watch
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions