Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Olympic fair play should extend to the sportswear

It’s a race to the bottom

Olympic fair play should extend to the sportswear industry

As momentum builds toward the Athens Olympic Games, it is not just athletes who are feeling the pressure. The global sportswear industry is using ruthless tactics to produce the latest fashions, made cheaper and better to ever more punishing deadlines. In order to deliver, suppliers are forcing their employees to work longer and harder, denying them their fundamental workers’ rights.

Poor women in developing nations make most of our sportswear. A new report launched today by Oxfam and the Council of Trade Unions shows that the women in this industry are often forced to work long shifts - up to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week - or are doing up to 45 hours of forced overtime each week. Women workers are being paid as little as two cents to sew a pair of trousers. In other situations they are paid around four dollars a day making running shoes that sell for over $100 a pair.

“We all love the Olympics and players in the sportswear industry are cashing in on this, at the same time placing massive pressure on their manufacturing suppliers” said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand. “If hypocrisy and exploitation were Olympic sports, most sportswear companies would win medals,” said Coates. “Human rights are being sacrificed in the search for profits. Should the race to outfit athletes mean a race to the bottom for these workers?”

The report notes that the fact that sportswear can now be made anywhere in the world means that international brands can bargain their suppliers down to rock bottom prices. It has become standard practice in the industry to impose near-impossible demands on suppliers to deliver cheaply and quickly. This is forcing suppliers to make their employees do more and more work for less and less money. Some brands do have codes of conduct for their suppliers, but these are often inadequate and the study shows that they are in any case frequently violated in the struggle to comply with the demands of the sportswear companies.

“The Olympic Games are supposed to be a showcase for fairness and human achievement, but the exploitation and abuse of workers endemic in the sportswear industry is violating that Olympic spirit,” says Ross Wilson, President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions. “Sportswear companies cannot be allowed to continue to profit from exploitation. These companies must comply with core labour standards recognised by the United Nations and International Labour Organisation, including the right to form and join trade unions. Respect for workers’ rights in the sportswear industry is long overdue.”

The new report forms the basis of a global campaign called Play Fair at the Olympics, aimed at improving working conditions in the sportswear industry. The campaign calls on the International Olympic Committee, the New Zealand Olympic Committee and companies such as Fila, Puma, and Asics to put a stop to the inhumane treatment of vulnerable workers around the world.

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Veronika Meduna: The Kaikoura Rebuild

A Scoop Foundation Investigation

Friday will be a big day for people north of Kaikōura – and for hundreds of construction workers who are racing to reopen State Highway 1 in time for the holiday season.

By the afternoon, the South Island’s main transport corridor will be open to traffic again, more than a year after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake mangled bridges and tunnels, twisted rail tracks and buried sections of the road under massive landslides. More>>


BPS HYEFU WYSIWYG: Labour's Budget Plans, Families Package

“Today we are announcing the full details of the Government’s Families Package. This is paid for by rejecting National’s tax cuts and instead targeting spending at those who need it most. It will lift 88,000 children out of poverty by 2021." More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Defence Spending, Alabama, And Dolly Parton

The spending lavished on Defence projects to meet the risks that could maybe, possibly, theoretically face New Zealand in future is breath-taking, given how successive governments have been reluctant to spend even a fraction of those amounts on the nation’s actual social needs. More>>


Members' Bills: End Of Life Choice Bill Passes First Reading

The End of Life Choice Bill in the name of David Seymour has been sent to a select committee for consideration by 76 votes to 44. It is the third time Parliament has voted on the issue in recent decades and the first time such a Bill has made it over the first hurdle. More>>


State Sector: MPI Survives Defrag Of Portfolios

The Ministry for Primary Industries will not be split under the new government, but will instead serve as an overarching body for four portfolio-based entities focused on fisheries, forestry, biosecurity and food safety. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Vulnerable Kids, RNZ Funding, And Poppy

The decision to remove the word ‘vulnerable’ from the Ministry for Vulnerable Children could well mark a whole shift in approach to the care of children in need... More>>





Featured InfoPages