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Bratz dolls made under harsh working conditions: report

The pouty Bratz dolls so popular as Christmas presents are made at a factory in China where workers are obliged to toil up to 94 hours a week, a labour rights group says.

The pouty Bratz dolls so popular as Christmas presents are made at a factory in southern China where workers are obliged to toil up to 94 hours a week, among other violations, a labour rights group said in a report released Friday.

The report by U.S.-based China Labour Watch and the National Labour Committee details allegations of harsh working conditions, especially during peak delivery months, and of violations of workers' rights to injury and health insurance.

The edgy, urban-styled rival to Barbie is made by a subcontractor in the southern export hub of Shenzhen, as is typical of many products sold in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Workers are paid the equivalent of 17 cents US for each doll, the report said, while the dolls retail for $16 USa piece or more.

Calls to the Van Nuys, Calif., headquarters of MGA Entertainment Inc., which launched the Bratz brand in 2001, were not answered and there was no immediate response to an e-mailed inquiry to the company's public relations office.

Calls to the China-based spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., a main distributor of the dolls, went unanswered Friday.

The allegations in the report describe practices found at many Chinese factories producing name-brand products for export. They include required overtime exceeding the legal maximum of 36 hours a month, forcing workers to stay on the job to meet stringent production quotas and the denial of paid sick leave and other benefits.

The report shows copies of what it says are "cheat sheets" distributed to workers before auditors from Wal-Mart or other customers arrive to ensure the factory passes inspections intended to ensure the supplier meets labour standards.

It said workers at the factory intended to go on strike soon to protest plans by factory managers to put all employees on temporary contracts, denying them legal protection required for long-term employees.

More than 120 million Bratz dolls have been sold since the toy debuted in 2001.

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