April 21, 2008
As the clock ticks down to the Beijing Olympics, international sportswear companies are amassing huge profits and arranging multi-million dollar sponsorship deals with the Games, Olympic athletes and national teams.
Yet despite 15 years of attempts to improve conditions through codes of conduct, workers still face extreme pressure to meet production quotas, excessive, undocumented and unpaid overtime, verbal abuse, threats to health and safety and a failure to provide legally required health and other insurance programs..
In a new report, “Clearing the Hurdles: Steps to improving working conditions in the global sportswear industry”, MSN and Play Fair 2008 present new research based on interviews with over 320 sportswear workers in China, India, Thailand and Indonesia, as well as reviews of company and industry profiles, published and unpublished reports, newspaper articles, web sites, and factory advertisements. Our researchers found that while some brands have developed labour rights monitoring and compliance programs and taken action on a number of issues and cases, substantial violations of worker rights are still the norm for workers in the sportswear industry.
But Clearing the Hurdles does more than cite continuing abuses of worker rights. The report identifies four key hurdles facing workers in the sportswear industry and recommends four ways to overcome them:
For each of these hurdles, the report lays out a series of practical steps the industry should take – and concrete targets that the Maquila Solidarity Network and Play Fair are asking sportswear brands, manufacturers and multi-stakeholder initiatives to meet.
Responses to the Play Fair report: