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London 2012 signs ground-breaking agreement with the Playfair 2012 Campaign to protect workers’ rights


In response to the evidence of exploitation of workers producing goods for London 2012, detailed in the new report Toying with Workers’ Rights (Play Fair, 2012), the organisers of the London Games have signed a ground-breaking agreement with the Playfair 2012 campaign to protect the rights of workers in its supply chains.

“Consumers may feel the Olypmic mascots are fun and cute, they will never think of the hard work, low wages…..we have in the   factory.” Worker making London 2012 mascots, China. (Play Fair, 2012)

Toying with Workers’ Rights investigated working conditions in two factories in China producing the Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Manderville, and London 2012 pin-badges. Researchers working undercover in the factory found:

  • Poverty pay, in some cases below the legal minimum, where workers were not paid enough to cover their most basic needs, and benefit payments for pensions and medical insurance were not paid in accordance with Chinese law. For example, a worker making an Olympic mascot could be paid as little as £26 a week, while a mascot can retail for around £20. An average living wage is around £225 a month.
  • Excessive overtime, sometimes up to 100 hours a month, nearly three times the legal limit in China. Some workers were doing 24-hour shifts, while others were working seven days a week. Overtime was often compulsory.
  • Child labour was used in the factory producing pin badges.
  • Workers were locked into a five-year contract and had to pay a fine if they tried to leave beforehand. At one factory, workers were not given a contract of employment, and in the other factory, workers did not receive pay-slips. In both factories, workers did not fully understand how their wages and over-time were calculated.
  • Workers did not receive health and safety training in both factories, and would tend to forgo wearing protective equipment, when provided, so they could work faster and earn more – to top up their poverty pay.
  • Workers were prevented from joining unions in both factories, and it was made clear to them that anyone engaging in trade union activities would be dismissed.
  • Evidence of audit fraud – with workers coached on how to answer auditor’s questions, and in some cases bribed to give the correct answers.

The Playfair 2012 campaign welcomes the recognition from LOCOG that immediate action is needed to end this exploitation. However, it must be pointed out that the campaign has been lobbying LOCOG for some years to take action to prevent such violations of workers’ rights.

The agreement signed between the Trades Union Congress on behalf of the Playfair 2012 campaign and LOCOG commits the organisers to taking concrete steps to protect workers’ rights. These steps are based on Playfair 2012 campaign asks. The agreement includes:

  • The publication of the names and locations of the factories in China and the UK covering 72 per cent of the licensed products produced for London 2012, with a focus on licensees with production remaining.
  • Making information about employment rights – based on national laws and on LOCOG’s ethical code – available in Chinese and English, and establishing a Chinese language hotline so that workers can complain if their rights are being violated.
  • Providing training to some of the workers in Olympic supply chains to make them more aware of their rights.
  • A commitment to work with Playfair 2012, the organisers of Rio 2016 and the International Olympic Committee to ensure that future Games benefit from the lessons learned.

LOCOG has gone further than any other Games organiser in adopting an ethical code, a complaints mechanism and in signing an agreement with the Playfair 2012 campaign – to work to protect workers’ rights.  However, in the short time left before the Games, LOCOG’s actions to put the steps in the agreement into practice will be key to delivering real improvements in conditions for workers in the factories producing goods for London 2012. The campaign is also working with Golden Bear, mascot licensee, to encourage them to work with labour rights experts in China to improve working conditions.

The Playfair 2012 campaign continues to insist that the Olympic values of fair play, respect and equality should be a reality for workers delivering London 2012 and future Games.


February 23rd, 2012

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