Workers' groups lobby for a 'sweatshop free' London Olympics

By agency reporter
June 12, 2011

A new agreement signed in Indonesia between major sportswear brands and textile, clothing and footwear unions in the country has raised hopes that merchandise produced for the London 2012 Games can be produced in factories free from exploitation, the TUC has declared.

The signing of a new protocol in Jakarta between the unions and several large factories which make goods for famous sportswear brands like Adidas, Nike, and Puma opens the way for the unions to represent Indonesian workers making sportswear and Olympics merchandise for next year's Games.

The Playfair 2012 campaign - of which the TUC is part alongside campaigning organisation Labour Behind the Label - is hopeful that a union presence in the Indonesian sportswear factories will lead to the workers being paid a living wage, ensure their fair treatment and put an end to excessive working hours.

This increases the likelihood that goods being produced for next summer's Olympics will be produced in a 'sweat-free' environment, says the TUC.

The agreement - which is the result of two years of negotiations - means that there is now pressure on the global brands to tackle poverty wages, and the increasing use of short-term contracts in their supplier factories in other parts of the world.

Workers in Indonesia and elsewhere in the world producing sportswear are often prevented from joining unions in the factories where they work. Where unions do try and recruit amongst the workforce, their union leaders often face the sack and are regularly intimidated and threatened by factory managers.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "This agreement is an important first step, but the real test now is to see if it does anything to change the poor working conditions for hundreds of thousands of sportswear workers across Indonesia, and in other countries producing sportswear and Olympic goods, such as China and Turkey."

He continued: "British sports fans who have been lucky enough to get tickets to Olympic events in 2012 will want to know that no worker has suffered making any sportswear or merchandise that will be going on sale between now and the opening ceremony next July."

"There has been exploitation and ill-treatment in the run up to every previous Games, but this agreement could be the sign that things are about to change. We hope the Olympic ideal of fair play can soon make an appearance in the hundreds of factories around the world making goods for the London Games and so change the lives of many thousands of workers," said Mr Barber.

Anna McMullen of Labour Behind the Label added: "With the Olympics just around the corner, sportswear brands must now address the poverty wages paid to sportswear workers, and the increasing use of short-term contracts which are used to minimise workers' legal rights and undermine their ability to organise."

The Protocol on Freedom of Association has been made possible by the Play Fair campaign, which since 2004 has been campaigning for global sportswear brands to take concrete steps to improve conditions in their supply chains.

The campaign was represented at the signing by Oxfam Australia, the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation and the Clean Clothes Campaign.

In the run up to the London 2012 Olympics the Play Fair Campaign will be encouraging other sportswear and garment brands to sign up to the protocol.

* The Protocol on Freedom of Association is available at (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat file)


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