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Fair Games? Human Rights of Workers in Olympic 2012 Supplier Factories

fairgamesWorkers making Olympic sportswear for London 2012 for top brands and high street names including Adidas and Next are being paid poverty wages, forced to work excessive overtime and threatened with instant dismissal if they complain about working conditions, according to a new report.

The Fair Games? report investigated working conditions in 10 sportswear factories in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines where they produced sportswear that will be bought by consumers and used by athletes and volunteers at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“We are forced to take overtime work so at least it supplements our take-home pay. Otherwise, how can I survive with such meagre income, how can I pay rent for the small room where I stay, cope with my daily necessities, and send some money for my family in the province? At the end of the day it is zero balance; there are no savings left for whatever uncertain things may happen to me and my family.”
A worker at an adidas Olympics supplier factory in the Philippines, working on minimum wage for 10 years without a pay-rise.

Researchers uncovered worrying facts indicating continued systematic and widespread exploitation of workers in sportswear factories:

  • Poverty wages were found across the board. In Sri Lanka, some workers have to survive on around £1.78 a day, little above the UN’s official poverty line, and only 25% of the amount needed for a living wage, enabling workers to live in dignity. In the Philippines, 50% of workers were forced to pawn their ATM cards to loan sharks for pay day loans to get them through the month.
  • Workers had legal benefits systematically denied to them by repeated use of short term contracts. Employers used these to avoid paying social insurance including pensions, sick leave and maternity benefits.
  • Workers were forced to perform overtime under threat of losing their jobs.
  • In all 10 factories there was no recognised union or credible workers’ representatives, meaning workers had no voice on pay and conditions. In China workers were threatened with job losses for distributing leaflets that could ‘hamper employer-employee relationships; and in the Philippines all workers interviewed said that they were scared to join a union as they would lose their jobs.
  • Living conditions showed the poverty levels experienced by workers. Chinese workers shared cramped and overcrowded rooms with hot water only available after 23:00, when their shift finished.

Following research undertaken by Playfair 2012 earlier this year – which found evidence of child labour, excessive hours, poverty pay and dangerous working conditions in Chinese factories producing pin badges and London 2012 mascots – the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) agreed to get tougher with the factories in its various supply chains.

This included making information about employment rights available in Chinese and establishing a Chinese language hotline so that workers could complain about ill treatment. Playfair 2012 is working with LOCOG to ensure it delivers on these commitments.

Evidence in Fair Games? shows that the abuse of workers in Olympic supply chains is more widespread. It is clear that the International Olympic Committee needs to do more to improve the treatment of workers making goods for the next Games in Brazil, and all future Games.

The TUC and Labour Behind the Label have submitted a number of complaints to LOCOG on behalf of the workers from China and the Philippines who are featured in the report.

You too can take action: Call on brands to face up to the reality of rights in their supply chains and raise the bar on workers’ rights


May 7th, 2012

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