Letter: Passing toy costs down the line

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The Independent Online
From Mr Bill Jordan

Sir: You carried the news of a proposed take-over of Hasbro, maker of Sindy and Cabbage Patch dolls, by Mattel, producer of Barbie dolls ("Barbie eyes up Action Man in Toytown battle", 26 January). How would this possible take-over affect those who work for these two firms? It is no secret that most of their toys are made in factories in China and Thailand, which compete fiercely to win production contracts from the large brand-name toy companies.

Your article described Hasbro's chairman, Alan Hassenfeld, admitting that he has to be more "aggressive". We hope that this aggression does not fall on the tens of thousands of workers in China and other Asian countries who work for Hasbro's and Mattel's sub-contractors.

At least 250 Asian toy workers have been killed in the last four years - 90 per cent of them women, and many of them child labourers. It was in a Thai factory which made Hasbro's Cabbage Patch dolls that the world's worst factory fire occurred, in which 188 people were burnt alive, in 1993.

What is needed is a new global code of conduct signed by toy manufacturers - and Mattel and Hasbro as the world leaders could show the way - to ensure that contracts drawn up with sub-contractors include sections which deal with workers' rights.

Yours sincerely,

Bill Jordan

General Secretary

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions


26 January