With millions of people eagerly waiting for the London Olympics 2012 and players around the world preparing to compete with each other, the international community has failed to keep watch on the facilities engaged in the production of the Olympic kits and souvenirs, where many workers are reportedly being exploited and abused. It’s been more than a decade since ‘sweatshop’ labour for top brands came out into the open and it is sad that even today, despite so many NGOs and the retailers pushing for change, the issues remain…
As per a recent survey conducted by the International Textile Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF), the common link between brand names such as Marks & Spencer’s, Next, Ralph Lauren, DKNY, GAP, Converse, Banana Republic, Land’s End, Levi’s, Reebok, Puma and an ongoing list of well known brand names, is sadly the shocking work practises still being followed in the manufacturing factories of these brands. Thus, in the midst of all the excitement building up for the Olympics, lies the harsh reality that many factories supplying to the brands likely to dominate the Olympics in 2012, such as Adidas, Nike, Slazenger, Speedo and Puma, are breaking every rule in the book when it comes to labour rights to get their goods delivered on time.
Countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China, Philippines and Indonesia, manufacturing the major share of souvenirs and apparel for the Olympics, under the big brand names, are imposing compulsory overtime, lower wages and higher production targets on their workers on short-term contracts. Where on an average 25% of workers in Indonesia are short-term or temporary to meet targets, in the Philippines the number is close to 85% in one particular factory and 50% at another. Sri Lanka on the other hand is reportedly paying wages on the basis of productivity targets, despite the practice being illegal and the workers in all the factories surveyed were doing between 10 and 40 hours of overtime a week without extra incentives or bonuses. Exhausting working hours, child labour, poverty pay, dangerous working conditions and an absence of independent trade unions is proving to be common issues at all the factories in the Olympic supply chains.
During the investigations, allegations have also arisen that Olympic pin badges for London 2012 were being made by children in a Chinese sweatshop, earning around 6p an hour making the official badges in a factory filled with dangerous nitric acid fumes. The workers in Bangladesh, mostly women, had been beaten, kicked or pushed, and publicly humiliated when they failed to meet the set target in the factory. At present, Bangladesh with 3.5 million workers in 4,825 garment factories is generating 80% of the country’s total export revenue, and still, the wealth generated by the sector is not used for the improvement in lives of garment workers of the country, 85% of whom are women hoping for situations to improve.
[bleft]In the midst of all the excitement building up for the Olympics, lies the harsh reality that many factories supplying to the brands likely to dominate the Olympics in 2012, are breaking every rule in the book when it comes to labour rights to get their goods delivered on time.[/bleft]
Reacting to the shocking revelations, The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has agreed to take concrete steps to ensure the rights of the workers making goods for the London Games. However, The International Olympic Committee so far has failed to take a public stand against exploitative labour practices taking place, despite similar evidence emerging from previous Olympic Games that took place in Athens, Beijing and before that. Campaigners, in the meanwhile, true to the Olympic spirit are creating public opinion in an attempt to promote the importance of protecting the workers producing merchandise for the Games at an international level and hope that the practices are curbed in time to see more sustainable merchandise for the Olympics.