Olympic worker: “Sometimes I buy a lottery ticket and hope I get some luck.”

Extracts from Toying with Workers’ Rights (Play Fair, 2012)

Worker making London 2012 pin badges

Worker making London 2012 pin badges in China

The Olympic movement states that it aims to “build a better world through sport”, but for workers making the Olympic mascots and London 2012 pin badges, this translates into poverty pay, long hours and poor health and safety.

Wang, 29 years old, works in a factory which made London 2012 pin badges for Olympic licensee, Honav. He lives with his wife in a small rented room outside the factory where he works.

Workers like Wang, who were making London 2012 pin badges in China, could be paid as little as 64 pence an hour. Wang would have to work for around 10 hours just to afford to buy 1 pin badge, which retails in the UK for around £6.50.

On their low wages, Wang and his wife can’t afford for their son to live with them, so he stays with Wang’s mother in their home village. They only get to visit their son once a year at Chinese New Year.

“Sometimes I buy a lottery ticket and hope I get some luck.” says Wang.

Zhang, 28 years-old, works in a factory making Olympic mascots Manderville and Wenlock for licensee Golden Bear. She’s paid a piece rate, and her basic pay can be around £170 a month, for a 40-hour working week. And yet, a wage that allows Zhang and others working in this area of China to cover their basic needs and have some extra, is estimated at around £225 a month.

“I hope the Olympic Games Committee can tell us how much a plush toy is sold for and gives us a fair unit price.” says Zhang.

Zhang sends most of her wages home to her family in her home village, where her two children live. On her days off she stays in her room to avoid spending money, and during peak season, she does two to four hours overtime a day to top up her low pay.

In the factory where she worked, some workers were not even being paid the legal minimum wage, and temporary workers in both factories were paid below the legal rates.

Under Chinese law, workers are entitled to social insurance benefits, including pensions, work-related injury insurance and medical insurance. In the factory making pin badges, many workers thought that they were protected by social insurance, but investigations revealed that only a small proportion of workers were enrolled on the scheme. Workers under 30 years-old making the Olympic mascots were being discriminated against, with no social insurance payments being made, affecting the majority of the workforce.

In China, workers should get a pay-slip under labour law, but those making the Olympic mascots didn’t receive a pay-slip at all, and most workers interviewed said they had no idea how their wages were calculated. Those making pin-badges did get a pay slip, but it didn’t provide a clear breakdown of how wages were calculated.

Workers making goods for the ‘greatest show on earth’ shouldn’t need to depend on the lottery to enable them and their families to live in dignity, and at minimum, they should have their human rights and legal rights respected.

Extract from Toying with Workers’ Rights (Play Fair, 2012). Following publication of this report the organisers of the London Games signed a ground-breaking agreement with the TUC on behalf of the Playfair 2012 campaign to take a number of actions to protect the rights of workers making Olympic goods in its supply chains. This is a positive step forward and the campaign will be working closely with the London 2012 organisers on delivering these commitments. Playfair 2012 is also working with Golden Bear Toys to help try to improve conditions in the factory investigated. But to ensure the lessons learned from London 2012 benefit Rio 2016 and all future Games, the International Olympic Committee needs to take responsibility and to act (see page 21), to ensure that no workers are exploited in the name of the Olympics.

March 9th, 2012

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