Message-ID: <>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 10:49:27 -0400
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YorkU.CA>
From: Sam Lanfranco <lanfran@YorkU.CA>
Subject: Disney Garmet Workers Exploited in Macau

Workers for Disney in Macau

Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee, 28 July 1999

Tak Wah Garment Factory, a Hong Kong-invested garment factory in Macau, employs 300-400 migrant workers from Mainland China. The factory is a part of the Polytex Co. Ltd., which is a big garment company in Macau. According to workers, Tak Wah mainly produces T-shirts for adults and childrens wear for Disney and Cutter & Buck, and the products are mainly exported to the US.

In the high season, workers were requested to work overtime for a month. A woman worker even suffered a miscarriage due to long hours at work. She applied for 15 days sick leave, but the management granted her seven days only. Over the past few months, it seems that orders have decreased. There was insufficient work for existing workers but the factory still imported workers in May this year. According to the regulations in Macau, factories cannot import labour unless they can prove there is an inadequate labour force in the industry or in specific works. It is unclear whether the factory connived with the labour agencies to cheat workers out of money.

Most of the workers in the factory are migrant workers from Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Anhui, all provinces in China. According to the agreement with local labour agencies, workers were guaranteed earnings of about MOP 3,000–5,000 per month for a period of two years in Macau. In order to work in Macau, each worker had to pay the labour agencies RMB 7,000-17,000. Some of them paid the fee before arrival in Macau while the others had it deducted from their wages after they arrived. Workers are willing to pay big money to labour agencies because they think that they can earn good wages in Macau.

However, the promises were not honoured. Workers wages were paid by piece rate but the rate was very low. Even in the high season, workers could only earn a maximum of MOP 1,500 per month even though they worked until 11:00–12:00 at night.

Recently, workers only worked three to four days a week because of a decline in orders. They just earned MOP 20-50 a day and MOP 600 a month. This is far less than the promise of the labour agencies and is insufficient even for workers basic livelihoods. Those workers who had not paid the labour agency recruitment fee in advance have to find MOP 300 a month to pay the labour agency in Macau. Obviously, the Tak Wah workers' situation is even worse than that in China.

It was arranged for groups of eight workers to share 40 square metre rooms in each of which four bunk beds were placed. For such poor accommodation, each worker was still charged MOP 300. Moreover, they needed to buy food for themselves. It is difficult for them to survive.

Under such circumstances, more than 60 workers decided to leave. The factory did not agree and refused to pay them their wages until they got help from a labour organization, the Macau Industrial Evangelical Fellowship, who petitioned the case to a Macau Legislator, Ng Kuok Cheong, and to the Macau Labour Department in early July. Finally, they got back the minimum payments owed to them for June and July and a part of the labour agency fee. However, around RMB 10,000 was not paid back because the labour agency in Macau said that they had only received RMB 7,200 from their local (Mainland China) labour agencies. So they have to go back home and fight there for the money from their labour agencies. Many workers admitted that it is very difficult for them to get back money in their hometowns.

In addition, Tak Wah ordered those workers who stayed at the factory to sign a guarantee stating that they will not apply for leave before the February 2000 Chinese New Year. As all workers travel documents are withheld by the labour agency, workers cannot leave the factory.

According to workers, it is confirmed that the factory is producing for Disney and Cutter & Buck. These companies are responsible for looking into the main problems: long working hours, poor working conditions, insufficient wages, and wages paid in arrears.

Disney is always proud of its Code of Conduct and claims that all of its suppliers have to follow it. There is no way Disney can merely turn a deaf ear towards workers discontent. If its Code of Conduct is not just a meaningless piece of paper, Disney should investigate the issue and respond to workers and the public immediately.

US$1.00 = RMB 8.3
US$1.00 = MOP 8.1

Contact person: Alice Kwan Hong Kong Chrstiian Idnsutrial Committee Rm. 704-5, 57 Peking Road Kowloon, Hong Kong Tel: (852) 2366 5860 Fax: (852) 2724 5098 Email:

copy of letter sent to Disney Company

By fax and mail
July 20, 1999

Mr. Michel Eisner
CEO, Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank CA 91521
Fax: (818) 566 7835

Dear Mr. Eisner,

Workers for Disney in Macao

I write to express our deep concern about the recent labour disputes in the Tak Wah Garment Factory in Macao, under the Polytex Co. Ltd. Enclosed please find our statement about the issue.

The Tak Wah issue is not an isolated event. It rather typifies the common sufferings of workers who produce Disney products in many developing countries. For the last six months, the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee and the Coalition for the Charter on the Safe Production of Toys have revealed serious violation of workers rights in the factories in Mainland China which produce products with Disney cartoon character. We have complained many time to Disney and requested twice to meet the Disney delegation while they were in Hong Kong. However, no reply has come from Disney. It is clear that Disney keeps its eyes closed to the violations of workers rights and Disneys code of conduct by their business partners.

We convey to you our strong protest and demand that Disney should take immediate action to investigate the issue and guarantee that such events will not happen again in all factories of your business partners. We are also very concerned about the workers who still stay in the Tak Wah Factory. It is Disneys obligation to protect workers rights.

Should you have any inquires, please feel free to contact Ms. Alice Kwan.

Looking forward to your prompt reply.

Yours sincerely,

Associate Director

Walt Disney (Asia pacific) Co. Ltd., Hong Kong
Tak Wah Garment Factory
Macao Industrial Evangelical Fellowship
Mr. Ng Kuok Cheong, Macao Legislator