Slaving for €2/day to make Zakumi’s

29/01/2010 at 14:17 14 comments

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is up in arms after the UK newspaper News of the World (NoW) reported how young Chinese workers in Shanghai earn 2.30 rand / ±2 euro a day to manufacture  light-up models of Zakumi – the official mascot of the 2010 world cup. The wages paid to the workers are a fraction of the 360 rand (±35 euro) the world cup trinkets in question are sold for.

“The workers, many of them just teenagers, toil for a pitiful R23 a day making the Zakumi figures,” COSATU said in a press release. “Posing as potential buyers from the UK,  investigators discovered the awful conditions at the Shanghai Fashion Plastic Products factory, 30 miles from the city centre.”

According to COSATU this is not a case of the production of counterfet 2010 world cup products and goods. “These are official FIFA products,” the trade union congress stated.

NoW was told that South African tournament organisers and FIFA gave the firm permission to make 2.3 million of the Zakumi trinkets after visiting the miserable factory four times. “There were about a dozen of them who came each time and they spent a long time inspecting our factory and our production lines,” COSATU added.

“They awarded his company the contract even though they must have seen workers moulding and painting the figures, shivering in coats and scarves at their dimly-lit workstations till up to 11pm. They could also have seen the factory waste draining into a canal at the back, turning the water a putrid black. The squalid scene is a far cry from the computerised images of a clean, modern factory set in landscaped gardens on the company’s website, which carries FIFA’s logo.”

It is said that employees at the securely-guarded complex of Shanghai plastics receive a basic monthly wage of just 800 yuan (R865 / 83 euro). Of their salary, money is deducted for bed and board in grim four-bed dormitories. In the end, they take home R23 (±2 euro) a day.

Former worker Yuli Qing, 22, told the NoW team: “It is one of the worst factories around here in terms of pay and the bosses are horrible. They’re very strict.”

Another 23-year-old female worker was quoted by NOW: “I work really hard and spend 13 hours a day in the factory, but I only make 1,000 yuan (R1080) a month”. Workers are often unable to cope with the tough conditions, including freezing winter temperatures and swelteringly hot summers, and quit, leaving a shortfall of labour.

The newspaper quoted FIFA as saying: “We will investigate the nature of the allegations and take the necessary measures if needed.”

According to COSATU, this is not enough. “This story illustrates the terrible extent to which the World Cup and soccer generally has been hijacked by big business,” it said in a media release.

“FIFA’s deals with sponsoring companies giving them the exclusive rights to sell their products, the high prices of tickets and the cost of World Cup clothing and memorabilia are turning the people’s game into a gigantic profit-generating scam. Workers and the poor are being priced out of the market and sidelined from their beloved game.”

COSATU has consistently demanded that all World Cup paraphernalia must be manufactured in South Africa so that we can create jobs and inherit a legacy from the tournament which will permanently improve the lives of South African workers. We are utterly appalled that even Zakumi, the official mascot, is being made, under such appalling conditions, in China.

We are outraged that huge profits will be made by exploiting the low-paid Chinese workers. South African workers are missing a chance to get new work. South African consumers, thinking they are making a patriotic gesture by buying the over-priced mascot, are unaware of where it comes from and how it is produced.

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