Earlier this month, allegations of sweatshop conditions at a Shanghai factory halted the production of Zakumi, a soccer-playing leopard representing the 2010 FIFA World Cup, to be held in South Africa in June. But as soon as the accusation hit the press, Shanghai Fashion Plastics Products Co. Ltd., the company in question, began to fight back.
The reports are all untrue, said a company spokesperson. We have agreed to undergo an investigation.
Global Brands Inc. called for a stop to production last week, after it said an audit showed that conditions in the factory were not up-to-par.
The investigation was conducted after London-based newspaper News of the World published a report accusing Shanghai Fashion Plastics of employing teenage workers and paying employees only $3 a day.
On Jan. 24, 2010, News of the World reporters posed as buyers in order to enter our company, said a Shanghai Fashion news release. They did not enter the factory floor and they did not talk with employees.
The Sunday Times in South Africa also published the story.
Shanghai Fashion's role in producing Zakumi dolls was controversial from the moment it won the contract, and the company's statement attributes the increased scrutiny and false reports partly to political opposition from within South Africa.
The Sunday Times report exacerbated the dissatisfaction of the South African trade unions and relevant stakeholders, the release stated.
When it was first announced that a Chinese company would be producing the doll, the Congress of South African Trade Unions threatened to organize nationwide demonstrations during the Fifa World Cup.
All World Cup-related manufacturing must be sourced in proudly South African factories, said COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven. The federation will continue to monitor all products on sale to check that we are not losing out on the extra job opportunities offered by the World Cup.
However, Global Brands did find some areas of non-compliance during a February audit, inconsistencies Shanghai Fashion claims were due to the audit's timing it was conducted during China's spring festival, when most workers have returned home for the holidays.
All the questions in the first audit have been resolved, according to Shanghai Fashion Plastics. The company said it is waiting for a follow-up investigation to clear its name and restart production.
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