Sweatshops still plague sportswear industry

Nike pays $16 million a year to Brazil's football team; Adidas pays $1.8 million per year to French footballer Zinedine Zidane. But as global sports brands crank up their advertising for the 2006 World Cup, sportswear workers in Asia still earn as little as 60 cents an hour in sweatshop conditions, Oxfam's latest report reveals.

by Oxfam
Last Updated: 08 Jun 2016

The charity, which led a vigorous campaign against sweatshops in the 1990s, focused its research on labour rights and found that most workers in garment factories could not freely join unions. Unions lobby for better working conditions and bargain collectively for higher wages. Unfair dismissals intimidation, and discrimination were routinely observed amongst union members.

The report profiles and rates 12 international sports brands – including Adidas, Nike, Puma, Reebok, FILA and Umbro. FILA fares the worst, having taken little action to promote trade unions and to address serious labour rights abuse. Reebok on the other hand comes out ahead in upholding workers’ rights. Other companies have also improved working conditions. But Oxfam says that the overall approach has been inconsistent, even contradictory at times.

Nine factory case studies offer insightful, if disturbing, information about the way Asian workers are treated. The refusal of some companies to cooperate with Oxfam is another poor indication of the levels of corporate governance and transparency that some sportswear companies still display.

The main conclusion from the report is that the few changes put in place smack of tokenism. Companies, Oxfam argues, should embrace labour issues and promote workers' welfare in Asia, for the workers’ sakes as much as theirs.

Source: Offside! Labor rights and sportswear production in Asia
Kelly Dent and Tim Connor
Oxfam, May 2006

Oxfam's new report cries foul on sportswear industry
Stephen Frost
CSR Asia Weekly Vol 2 Week 22

Review by Emilie Filou

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