A Sunday Herald Sun investigation has revealed workers earn as little as $135 a month — less than 80[Australian cents] an hour.
The $135 monthly wage is also less than the cost of one official Commonwealth Games coach’s jacket. Employees also commonly work up to 60 hours a week making garments and toys, management has confirmed.
Many have only one day off a week and work up to 10 hours a day. And of the factory’s 500 young workers, 300 live in dormitories at the factory. Most — about 350 — are women.
Factory general manager Zhong Ya Long said their conditions were better than in many other factories and pointed out that the workplaces were air-conditioned. Average monthly wages ranged from $135 to $338, Mr Zhong said. “Normally we require them to have a break every week,” he said. “They have to have one day off.”
The dormitories also had cable TVs and table tennis for employees to enjoy in their spare time, he said.
Your first reaction may be: “That’s completely wrong and somewhat immoral.” Your brain picks up on the buzzwords about ‘the poor’ being exploited by wealthy capitalist fat cats — which may have a certain degree of truth here. But the conditions for these workers may just be better than conditions in other factories which produce all kinds of goods and materials for domestic consumption, meaning that working conditions are not a direct result of “fair trade”.
Whilst no one would argue that more profits from companies should go all the way down to the people who actually make the gear, who is it that creates the overall situation for workers? To resort to something similar to “the west” (albeit the south-east in Australia’s case) exploiting unfortunate workers in “developing countries” is to not look at how that compares with how people are treated in the work-place by their own governments and companies. 338 Australian dollars is about 2000RMB — not a bad wage at all for one parent to bring in to the overall family purse — so using the word “sweatshop” is mis-guided and incorrect press. We wish we had ping-pong tables at work!
Image from Mike Oliver