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Boro company accused of worker abuse

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The accusations, which include managers of the factory calling the workers names, closing the plant's doors to force overtime and even mandating that workers pay for equipment that is used, have been denied by Marc Beige, the president of Rubie's. He called allegations that workers were chained to sewing machines "ludicrous" and said it was impossible that he was unaware of any misconduct because he has a production manager who visits the site about every two weeks.Rubie's was given the license to the Barbie brand from toy manufacturer Mattel.Beige said the general problem at the factory in Tepeji Del Rio, a small town about 50 miles north of Mexico City, is that two unions are vying for control to represent the workers. The original union, CTM, has been representing employees of the plant for 12 years. Beige said that two-thirds of the approximately 150 workers wanted to stay with CTM and that the other union, known as CROC, is the group that is making the accusations.In a New York Times interview, Guadalupe Ëvila Jimenez, a worker who voted to be represented by CROC along with 60 co-workers, said she and others that voted with her were locked out and lost jobs that paid little more than $5 a day.Beige told The Times that Jimenez and others walked off the job and were not fired.He said the minimum wage mandated by the Mexican government is 250 pesos a week but the minimum salary paid by his company is 350 pesos a week, or $35. However, he said a "vast majority" of employees earn more than that. A press release from Rubie's said an audit of the factory by the company found that one former employee was 15 years old, and that although Mexican law allows for such hirings, it is against Rubie's minimum age requirement of 16. Beige said the company has taken steps to ensure that never happens again.Rubie's also said in the release that the Mexican Labor Board, which has jurisdiction in the dispute, said CTM has a valid collective bargaining agreement and is the union responsible for representing workers at the plant. The company also said neither the labor board nor CTM ever made accusations regarding child labor issues at the plant.The case is currently in a Mexican court in the state of Hidalgo and Beige said he expects the court will side with CTM because it has represented the workers for years as well as other workers in Tepeji Del Rio."I am hopeful that most of this will be resolved in the next week or two," Beige said.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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