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Sweatshop Worker Barbie Unveiled In Protest Of Chinese Factory Conditions

posted 10 Dec 2013, 11:15 by Mpelembe   [ updated 10 Dec 2013, 11:16 ]

Accessorized with chains on her body and a black 'X' over her mouth, a life-size Sweatshop Worker Barbie doll is displayed in Paris as part of an artistic protest against the doll's manufacturer Mattel's inhumane factory working conditions.

PARIS, FRANCE (DECEMBER 10, 2013) (REUTERS) - Two NGOs unveiled a new Barbie doll in Paris on Tuesday (December 10). While her arrival is just in time for Christmas, the latest version of the iconic doll lacks holiday cheer.

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The life-size Sweatshop Worker Barbie doll was unveiled in a towering hot pink box, in the centre of a busy intersection in Paris, by French organisation Peuples Solidaires along with China Labour Watch, as an artistic protest against working conditions in Chinese Mattel factories, where Barbie dolls are manufactured.

According to Peuples Solidaires, the doll's American manufacturer imposes unbearable working conditions and labour hours on its employees in China.

The Sweatshop Worker Barbie was clad in a blue labour uniform and accessorized with chains around her body and a black X covering her mouth.

According to the Program Co-ordinator of China Labour Watch, Kevin Slaten, the doll represents the lack of rights that Mattel factory employees have over their working conditions.

"Workers in China don't, especially in these factories that have been investigated, don't have any union representation, they have no grievance channel, they accept what they get. You know, the contract that they sign is often blank, they just sign their name on a blank contract, they have no idea what they're really getting promised or what they're promising. And this sort of represents what the workers are dealing with, they have very little say in their own conditions," Slaten said.

Labels on the Sweatshop Worker Barbie's box advertised "Works Thirteen Hours a Day," "Starvation salary," and "Maximum Efficiency."

"Because they're poor, and because they come from rural areas, because of economic and political situations in China, they don't have many other choices. And we think that Mattel and the factories that these workers work for are taking advantage of that situation. They know that the workers don't have much of a choice. If you ask Mattel 'why do you make workers, why do your workers do so much overtime', they say, 'well they want to do all the overtime'. Of course they have to do the overtime, is the answer that I would have because they don't make enough money. You don't pay them anything," Slaten said.

Also at Tuesday's protest was China Labour Watch investigator M. Zhang, who, in order to precise the conditions in Mattel factories, went undercover as a worker in one of its sweatshops. He asked the media not to show his face.

After spending time in the Mattel factory, Zhang described the harsh working conditions endured by factory employees.

"In the Mattel enterprises there is an enormous number of overtime hours, around 100 hours of overtime each month. But actually, the minimum salary is one third lower than in any other factory in the Shenzen region. The base salary does not cover the needs of daily life. When the workers arrive to the factories, they are not given any training, and there are no instructions concerning their security," Zhang said.

The NGO Peuples Solidaires has also launched an online campaign entitled "Appel Urgent" or 'Urgent Call' to push Mattel to modify its practices.

The campaign, which will finish just before Christmas, has already received more than 60,000 signatures.

In October, the world's largest toy factory Mattel Inc topped Wall Street's profit estimates for the third quarter, benefiting from strong demand for its chubby-faced American Girl dolls and its Monster High line depicting the teen descendants of famous monsters.

Mattel said third-quarter net income rose to $422.8 million, or $1.21 a share, from $365.9 million, or $1.04 a share, a year earlier.

The iconic Barbie dolls' sales increased 3 percent, after posting declines in the previous four quarters.