updated 12/27/2006 3:02:05 PM ET 2006-12-27T20:02:05

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 labor rights group said in a report released Friday.

The report by U.S.-based China Labor Watch and the National Labor Committee details allegations of harsh working conditions, especially during peak delivery months, and of violations of workers' access 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 for each doll, the report said. The dolls retail for $16 a piece or more.

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.

During the spring to summer months, when the factory is rushing to meet Christmas orders, workers routinely work seven days a week and up to 15 hours a day, the report said. It calculated average peak working hours at more than 94 hours a month.

Staff who answered the phone at the Hua Tai factory in Shenzhen referred inquiries to its parent company, Wah Shing Co. of Hong Kong. Wah Shing did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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

Jonathon Dong, the China-based spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., a main distributor of the dolls, said Friday that he was looking into the report.

New York-based China Labor Watch was founded by Li Qiang, a former Chinese factory worker who since emigrating to the U.S. has used his contacts among Chinese workers to monitor labor conditions, particularly in Shenzhen.

The National Labor Committee says its mission is to protect workers worldwide.

The report includes copies of what it says are "cheat sheets" distributed to workers before auditors from Wal-Mart or other companies arrive to ensure the factory passes inspections intended to ensure the supplier meets labor 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 of legal protection required for long-term employees.

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

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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