The Finnwatch monitoring group has issued a report detailing poor working conditions at a glass factory in Thailand that produces goods for two prestigious Finnish design companies, Marimekko and Fiskars Iittala.
The report found that working conditions in the plant were extremely hot and that workers were not given sufficient protective equipment, breaks or overtime pay.
Fiskars had given notice of work-safety problems to plant management, but without effect. Marimekko commissioned an inspection by the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI), which gave it poor marks. Finnwatch says Marimekko tried to conceal this information. The BSCI was set up this year by the European Foreign Trade Association.
Scars indicate poor protection
Finnwatch inspected the factory near Bangkok during the past summer and autumn and confirmed that it does not meet BSCI standards. The NGO concludes that the companies chose the facility because manufacturing there is cheaper – due to lax standards. The factory has about 175 employees.
Most of the glassblowers did not have protective goggles or other protective gear while handling hot glass. As a result, many have scars on their arms.
The glassworks produces bowls and plates for Iittala’s Kastehelmi series, designed by Oiva Toikka, and Marimekko’s ‘Sukat makkaralla’ series, designed by Anu Penttinen.
Firms: Problems being corrected
Interviewed on Yle's morning TV show on Tuesday, Marimekko’s Head of Product Lines, Niina Nenonen, said: “Actually these observations made in Finnwatch’s field study are quite similar with those that were found in our own audit commissioned from the BSCI. We have drawn up an action plan based on this and are now carrying out corrective measures.”
Meanwhile Risto Gaggl, Senior Vice President, Supply Chain at Fiskars said that “these pay issues have been investigated and should now be in proper order.”
“Last week we agreed with the factory’s management that we will together look into how we can arrange training so that the workers understand why they should wear masks,” added Gaggl.
Finnwatch is backed by an array of Finnish NGOs including the umbrella grouping KEPA (the Service Centre for Development Cooperation) and various environmental, religious and labour organisations.
Marimekko has been through a series of plagiarism scandals in recent months, while Iittala recently announced it is closing Finland's oldest glassworks.