London 2012 chair Sebastian Coe has come under pressure over revelations that workers in Bangladesh producing clothes for Adidas, the official sportswear partner of the 2012 Games, are illegally paid less than the minimum wage.
Claims have also emerged of illegal working hours as well as bullying and violence by factory managers.
The allegations come in a new report, Race to the Bottom, from the anti-poverty charity War on Want. The report found factories in Bangladesh supplying Adidas gave their lowest-paid employees less than the statutory minimum wage. The basic wage for the lowest-paid staff in the Adidas factories was just 9p an hour.
The report exposed exhausting working hours and appalling abuse of workers. In one factory making baseball caps for Adidas, one in five employees interviewed worked over 90 hours a week and two in three had clocked up more than 40 hours’ overtime in the previous month. At the same factory, four in five of the staff had been verbally abused by their managers, two in five had been pushed by their managers and half had been publicly humiliated. Women workers from many of the factories described sexual harassment as widespread.
The report also surveyed workers making goods for Nike and Puma, who have both invested heavily in high profile sponsorship deals with athletes competing in the London 2012 Games. Two thirds of the workers interviewed worked over 60 hours a week, in breach of Bangladeshi law, to earn enough money to cover the cost of basic essentials. Most of the workers lived in a single room with their families, sharing a kitchen and toilet with their neighbours.
Rahima Khatun, 21, who works as a sewing machine operator at one Adidas factory, said: “I had my first child last year, but I can’t spend enough time with her as I have to be work at the factory 12 hours a day, seven days a week. I have no choice, working overtime is compulsory. My managers are constantly swearing at us and pushing us if we don’t work fast enough. Sometimes the factory does not even pay us for three months at a time.”
Lord Coe’s London Organising Committee only asks Adidas to uphold ethical standards at factories directly making Olympic branded goods, such as the uniforms for Olympic volunteers, but does not require the same standards at their Olympic partner’s other factories.
Murray Worthy, sweatshops campaigner at War on Want, said: "Lord Coe has called the Games ‘a powerful lever of change, improving lives across the world’ yet this research shows the appalling abuses committed by a company the Games have endorsed. If the London 2012 organisers are serious about improving lives across the world they must demand that their official partners respect basic human rights wherever they operate. We hope they will make clear that they believe these conditions are completely unacceptable."
Read the report 'Race to the Bottom' here: http://www.waronwant.org/attachments/Race%20to%20the%20Bottom.pdf