Tuesday 6 March 2012

Leaving Workers Behind In The Race For Olympic Profit

Disturbing news from Bangladesh, where it seems that leading sportswear manufacturers are backtracking on their ethical promises, as the upcoming Olympic Games gives them a chance to maximise profits at the expense of worker's well-being.

Investigators working in conjunction with War On Want and the Observer newspaper have found that factories in Bangladesh supplying Adidas, Nike and Puma ignore mimimum wage requirements, force workers into crippling 80-hour weeks, and attack and humiliate workers who stand up for their legal rights.

The stories are horrific, and make a mockery of the sustainable, ethical stand that these companies have made to their consumer base. The factories are largely staffed by women, many of whom have reported abuse and assault from line-bosses and supervisors, including denial of toilet breaks. Many have been forced to strip, slapped, kicked and verbally abused. All this for wages that are nowhere near the 94p a day minimum wage. On average, workers are getting 16p an hour, or 72p a day.
The reasons are pretty obvious. Adidas is the official outfitter of the UK Olympic team. Nike and Puma sponsor 30 national teams between them, including the US, China, and Usain Bolt's Jamaica. The companies stand to make massive profits over and above the billions they make every year. Adidas alone plan to sell £100 million of Olympic-branded sportswear. War On Want's campaign and policy drector Greg Muttitt says:
"Companies such as Adidas, Nike and Puma make huge profits from this abuse, while soiling the Olympic flag in which they wrap themselves. Let's focus on what's great about the Olympics and end the corporate free-for-all. If companies want to benefit by sponsoring teams, athletes and the Games themselves, they must ensure their workers are treated with respect."
All three companies are scurrying to launch investigations into the abuses, claiming that they have been exaggerated and that all their suppliers conform to stringent checks and regular audits. A spokeswoman for Adidas says:
"We are working closely with Nike and Puma to coordinate efforts and to respond to War on Want's report."
I'll bet they are.

You can read the War On Want report, entitled Race To The Bottom, on their website. Required reading today, I think.

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