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Maersk battling with Chinese factory accusations

Report by ITF-Maersk Network

: http://www.itfglobal.org/campaigns/maersk.cfm/newsdetail/3031/region/1/order/1

Brings in outside investigators
A two month shut-down is expected to serve as a cooling off period for Maersk Container Industry in Dongguan, China, as workers at the Danish giant’s container construction facility are sent home on a temporary layoff as the owner battles accusations of unsafe working conditions, shop floor brutality and corruption.

The factory will remain closed until March 9, including an extended holiday for the Chinese New Year. The closure has officially been blamed on the global economic downturn.

Maersk parent AP Moller-Maersk, while strongly denying the allegations brought against it, has invited Impactt Ltd, a London company, to serve as independent third party and umpire when the facility does reopen.

The plan is for a team of social responsibility and human resources experts to spend time at the factory and observe conditions for themselves.

Annette Stube, who was appointed Maersk’s first-ever corporate social responsibility director just weeks before the allegations in Dongguan surfaced, will let Impactt go into the factory and then talk directly with the group behind the accusations to see what might need to be done.

The trouble surfaced when a group called Globalization Monitor sent a report directly to Danish media and accused Maersk of unacceptable working conditions and corruption.

The Dongguan facilities are thought to employ about 1,900 people and have an output of up to 180,000 container boxes annually.

Lloyd’s List newspaper quoted Globalization Monitor spokesman Au Loong-Yu as saying that conditions at the factory had improved after two strikes by workers last year, but much more needed to be done. He said the work environment was “barrack like” and unsafe, and that workers lived in fear of retaliation from “brutal middle management”.

Specific allegations reported by Politiken and the Danish Broadcasting Corporation include:

* smoke surrounding welders not being extracted, thus exposing them to potential lung diseases
* pollution in the factory, and lack of ventilation
* a company employees’ handbook bans strikes and go-slow working, and employees must not conceal having a sexually transmitted disease
* hearing and lung damage from unsafe working conditions
* victimisation and dismissal for wanting to discuss wages
* security guards using violence against workers who do not follow company rules. All are afraid of the guards
* corruption, where employees can buy promotion.

A riot took place a year ago at the plant in protest against the beatings, after which the security company was changed. But another strike followed as workers remained dissatisfied.

Link to Globalization Monitor report on Maersk (corrected)

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