30 November 2009 | Jake Kanter
Retail giant Wal-Mart has again come under attack over conditions at some vendors in its Chinese supply chain.
A report by campaign group China Labor Watch (CLW), published last week, found some factories "routinely break" laws on overtime and that staff are subjected to "uniformly poor" living standards.
It follows a separate report by CLW earlier this year that uncovered similar problems at two of Wal-Mart's Chinese suppliers.
Workers at five factories in the country were interviewed for the latest probe to assess conditions at a peak period in the run-up to Christmas.
Staff overtime increased by an average of three hours a day at the factories, pushing total overtime per person to between 100 and 140 hours a month. The legal limit in China is 36 hours a month. CLW also found evidence that employees were underpaid for this extra work.
At one supplier the bathrooms had no running water, while canteen food and sanitation standards were poor at other plants investigated. There was also evidence of safety issues, including "intense heat" and "strong smells" at some of the factories.
CLW said plant managers work to prevent Wal-Mart uncovering the conditions by falsifying paperwork and encouraging staff to lie during audits.
A Wal-Mart spokesman said: "As soon as we learned of these allegations we immediately launched an investigation of the five factories referenced in the report. We take reports like this very seriously and we will take prompt remedial action if our investigations confirm any of the findings. We have an on-going dialogue with China Labor Watch, and welcome their inputs to strengthen our Ethical Standards Program.
We remain committed to sourcing merchandise that is produced responsibly by suppliers that adhere to Walmart's rigorous standards."