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Sat, May 14, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Angry workers return to Happy Meal toy factory

DISPUTE The Vietnamese workers' pay was raised to US$0.175 an hour after they went on strike over complaints such as being penalized for going to the toilet too frequently

AP , HANOI

Nearly 10,000 workers who make toys for McDonald's Happy Meals returned to work yesterday after staging a two-day strike at a factory in central Vietnam to protest alleged unfair and abusive labor practices, officials said.

The strike, which ended after a settlement was reached on Thursday, involved about 9,300 laborers, mostly young women, said Phan Viet Thong, chairman of the Danang City Federation of Labor. The workers walked off the job on Wednesday and gathered outside the Hong Kong-owned factory, Keyhinge Toys Vietnam Co Ltd, Thong said.

The employees claimed they had been treated badly.

They alleged supervisors routinely humiliated and cursed at them, and that factory bosses refused to pass on their complaints to company leaders, said a man from Danang City Industrial Zone Management Board who gave his name only as Dong.

The company has agreed to give the workers a 10 percent pay rise, limit their working hours to 10 hours daily, with overtime, and also give them Sunday off, Thong said.

In a statement that was issued on Thursday, Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald's Corp said that the company "takes these issues very seriously. We have a strict code of conduct for suppliers based on our belief that employees deserve to be treated with dignity and respect."

McDonald's spokeswoman Anna Rozenich would not comment on specific worker allegations but said, "All the issues have been resolved, whatever they are."

She said the Danang facility produces only a portion of McDonald's Happy Meal toys.

The strike was widely reported in Vietnam's state-controlled media, which said the workers alleged that they were forced to work 12-hour days with no overtime and were allowed only 45 minutes for lunch.

Workers' allegations of abusive labor practices

* Routine abuse and humiliation by supervisors.

* Factory bosses refused to pass on complaints to management.

* Forced to work 12-hour days with no overtime.

* Allowed only 45 minutes for lunch.

* Wages cut if they visited the restroom more than twice a day.

* No potable water in the factory.


They also complained that their wages were cut if they visited the restroom more than twice a day or if a visit to the doctor took longer than two hours.

"In the company, there is no water for workers to drink, let alone water to wash after the shift ends," a worker identified as Dang Thi Nhan T., told the Tien Phong newspaper. "Many workers have fainted during working hours."

In a statement, Y.P. Cheng, the owner of Keyhinge Toys, said the dispute had been resolved, but he did not comment on the workers' allegations.

The workers received a pay increase from 2,500 dong (US$0.16) to 2,750 dong (US$0.175) an hour, labor leader Thong said.

The company also agreed to issue more bathroom passes and to order supervisors to improve the overall factory climate, he said.

The strike wasn't the first labor dispute involving the toy company, the largest employer in Danang -- once the site of a large US military base and a popular holiday spot for US soldiers during the Vietnam War.

In 1998, Keyhinge Toys was accused of paying workers less than the government-mandated minimum wage and failing to set up a labor union despite multiple requests from the Danang City Federation of Labor.

At the time, McDonald's said there had been inspections at the plant, which opened in 1996, and that an audit by SGS Switzerland found the factory met Vietnamese safety regulations.

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