According to a feature released by the British newspaper ‘The Sun’ Romanian kids aged six get 22p an hour as “slave” labour making Kinder Egg toys.
They are in families toiling 13 hours a day at home in Romania to assemble the treats for chocolate giant Ferrero.
Christian Juri, whose children Patrick and Hannah help put the toys together, insisted: “It’s slave labour.”
The 80p treats, put together in filthy working conditions, end up in products for the confectionery company famed for its Ferrero Rocher, thesun.co.uk reports.
A Kinder whistleblower said: “If the bosses at Ferrero knew what was going on in Romania they would have a heart attack. “Customers would expect products which go inside children’s chocolates to be made in controlled conditions. But so many of the toys are being made in people’s homes that effective quality control is impossible. Ferrero may not be getting what they pay for and middle men somewhere must be making a killing off the back of people being treated like slaves.”
The families have do work from home where conditions are tough and there are no hygiene controls in place
Among them are Timea Jurj, 30, her husband Christian, 41, children Patrick, 11, Hannah, six, and Timea’s niece Tamara, also six.
They are paid 20 Romanian Lei — around £3.80 — for every 1,000 completed eggs they deliver to a factory in Carei near the border with Hungary.
Timea said: “I know the pay is terrible but I don’t have any choice but to do this. We have to get money to eat and look after our children.”
The family are supplied with eggs and plastic parts by a firm called Prolegis, a sub-contractor for Romexa SA.
When approached by The Sun a supervisor ran away and locked the factory door. Within an hour a taxi arrived at the Jurj family home. The driver told them to hand over all unfinished eggs and toy parts saying: “This work is over.”
Another Kinder “slave” in Carei is Felicia Indrea, 49. She is paid 14 Romanian Lei, £2.66, for a bag of completed toys.
In the town of Tasnad, 20 miles away, mechanic Cori Biro, in his 40s, collected ten bags of toy pieces from the Adontradenet factory, another firm sub-contracted by Romexa. He said his wife, in the nearby village of Piru Nou, would be paid around 20 Lei, around £3.80, per bag.
Daniel Muresan, area manager for Romexa SA, insisted he had no idea work was being outsourced. He said: “This is the first I have heard of it but I will find out who is responsible and the factories involved will have their contracts terminated if this is found to be true.”
Prolegis, with 130 employees, turned over £627,000 last year.
Factory boss Marcel Bront said: “We are not giving toy parts to anyone outside the factory. Those toys must be from somewhere else.”
Adontradenet received a £200,000 EU grant to boost fledgling manufacturing businesses in Romania last year.
Owner Adi Nemes said: “The toys were not from my factory. Other factories in the area must be the source.”
Romexa SA, whose millionaire boss also owns a shopping mall, has just eight registered employees but had a turnover of £3.63million in 2015.
Romanian woman in the story: It’s a frame-up!
A Digi24 TV crew has talked on Tuesday to the woman in the report. The mother claims that everything is a frame-up. The mother denied the whole story. Timea Jurj said she did not understand everything in English and that the kids do not work 13 hours a day.
She said that many of their answers were changed by the journalists with ‘The Sun’ and that they have promised her husband a job in England. She claims she is very scared and is thinking about possible consequences.
According to Mediafax, Timea Jurj claims the journalists told her they want to promote the Kinder Eggs and want to find out how they are produced and she fell into their trap. “Nothing is true. It was a frame-up, they told the children to stay in certain positions, they were told to have a photo together with me. You can see in the picture the children are smiling. In no way they worked on the Kinder Eggs or in no way I exploited them. They told me they want to promote the Kinder Eggs, as they are expensive in England and want to find out how they are produced from the beginning to the very end. I fell into their trap.”
She claims she makes the Kinder Eggs at home by herself and that the British journalists were brought to her house by a taxi driver from Carei town.
“I don’t know what steps I should take against the people from the journal, I just want my life to get back to normal. I hope the journalists receive from God what they deserve for what they’ve done to me,” Timea Jurj said.
DIICOT, Child Protection Directorate start investigation
The Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) announced it is probing into this case.
“We were not notifiedf ex-officio, no file has been opened yet,” DIICOT says in a press release.
The General Directorate of Social Assistance and Child Protection (DGASPC) Satu Mare has also started on Tuesday an investigation after the feature published by ‘The Sun’, and will take action if it finds that the children’s rights were violated and they’ve been exploited.
DGASPC Satu Mare Director Mariana Dragoș has said the institution’s employees, the local authorities and the Police are conducting investigations.
“The Directorate is notified ex-officio to find out to what extent the parents violated the rights of the child and when they complete the investigation we’ll see the appropriate decisions in this situation, depending on the child’s interest, to see if their rights have been violated, if they were subjected to a form of abuse. For the time being we act ex-officio having in view the feature posted by the international press together with the local authorities and together with the Police and we’ll see what the results are,” Mariana Dragoș said.
She said measures will be taken if the parents have jeopardized the integrity of the children and if certain laws have been violated.