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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Commercial hell

Any organisation with a heavy reliance on the commercial sector for its financial solvency is bound to run into problems when its sponsors turn out to have difficult-to-defend practices or connections. For the London Olympics to market itself as the most ethical ever therefore was just asking for trouble.

This morning's Independent brought those problems to organisers in spades by revealing that Olympic-branded gear, which is to be worn by British athletes and Games volunteers, is being manufactured for Adidas in sweatshop conditions in Indonesia.

They say that with just over 100 days to go before the Games begin, their investigation has uncovered widespread violations of workers' rights in Indonesia, where nine locally owned and managed factories have been contracted to produce Olympic shoes and clothing for Adidas, the official sportswear partner of London 2012 and of the British team:

While the German company – which unveiled its Stella McCartney-designed kit for British athletes last month – hopes to make £100m from its Olympic lines, the mainly young, female factory employees work up to 65 hours (25 hours more than the standard working week), for desperately low pay. They also endure verbal and physical abuse, they allege, are forced to work overtime, and are punished for not reaching production targets.

None of the nine factories pays its employees a living wage – about 20 per cent higher than the official minimum wage – one of the cornerstones of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) base code, an internationally recognised labour code adopted by the Olympics organising committee, Locog. Workers struggle to survive on pay as low as 5,000 rupiah (34p) an hour, skipping meals to save money, and sending their children away to be looked after by grandparents.

The ETI base code – which Locog says must be complied with by all companies supplying goods to Olympic licences – also stipulates freedom of association. Yet workers allege that some unions are not given bargaining rights by Adidas's Indonesian suppliers. At PT Shyang Yao Fung, in the industrial city of Tangerang, west of Jakarta, 10 workers were suspended a month ago – and face being laid off – because of their union activism, they believe.

The whole story sheds new light on the over-the-top and highly draconian regulations preventing the advertising of rival brands within a certain distance of an Olympic venue.
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