General Electric Accused Of Violating China's Labor Law

Policy Matters Ohio, a non-profit organization from the United States, published a report at the end of March which it says that General Electric's joint venture company in Xiamen has violated China's Labor Law by not offering necessary safety measures for employees.

In the report, Policy Matters Ohio raises several claims against U.S.-based GE and Topstar's joint venture Xiamen Topstar Lighting Co. Ltd., a Xiamen-based compact fluorescent light bulbs maker, accusing it of asking the employees to work for more than 64 hours per week but not paying them for the overtime work, not offering the workers pay stubs so they don't know whether their pay is accurate, not offering the workers necessary training on protecting themselves in a toxic environment, and only hiring females who are less than 32 years old. The report concludes that Xiamen Topstar Lighting's workers are extremely exhausted by long hours' work and many of them have no idea they are working with mercury, which can damage the brain, heart, kidneys and other organs.

The report calls on GE to adhere to its own policies by making sure the process for making the light bulbs does not harm the health of the workers or violate their rights.

In a response, local media reports that GE says that most of the claims mentioned in the report are not true. It says it has audited Topstar each year in the past ten years or so and has never identified any worries from the employees about the company's work environment or operation. Fang Juntao, a manager from GE's Consumer Products & Industrial Group Asia Pacific, told Sina.com that GE has immediately set up a team to probe the case following the release of the report and it will publish the investigation result as soon as it comes out.

Production and sales of compact fluorescent light bulbs are growing rapidly in the United States and worldwide. The energy bill approved by the U.S. Congress in December 2007 mandates the phase-out of current incandescent light bulbs and their replacement with more energy-efficient products.

GE has been closing down production of incandescent light bulbs and parts, especially in Ohio in the United States, the long-time home of its lighting business and many of its factories. In October, it announced the closing of six plants employing 425 Ohio workers, as well as a plant in Brazil. It has argued that it cannot afford to produce the more energy-efficient CFLs in the United States.

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