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London 2012 uniforms made in ‘sweatshop’ conditions despite ethical agreements

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Ilona Lo Iacono
WVoN co-editor 

Olympic-branded clothing and footwear is reportedly being manufactured for adidas under sweatshop conditions in Indonesia, in violation of ethical standards agreed to by Games organisers.

The Independent reported on Saturday that the licensed gear, to be worn by London 2012 volunteers and British athletes, is being manufactured in nine locally owned and managed Indonesian factories where violations of workers’ rights are widespread.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has publicly placed great importance on the sustainability of the Games, with an approach “based on the WWF/BioRegional concept of ‘One Planet Living®’”.

However, this “ vision of a sustainable world, in which people everywhere can enjoy a high quality of life within the productive capacity of the planet” seems, in practice, to have scant regard for workers’ basic rights.

While adidas, official sportswear supplier of the London Olympics and the British team, hopes to make £100 million from selling Olympics-branded goods, none of the Indonesian factories subcontracted to produce the products pays its workers a living wage.

Workers, mainly young women, are paid as little as Rp 5,000 (34p) an hour, and work up to 65 hours per week.

Indonesian Textile Workers Federation Secretary General Indra Munasmar says that such low wages make excessive overtime necessary for survival.

He calculated that for workers to earn Rp 2 million a month, “a minimum amount to be able to meet the basic needs of their families”, even 65 hours a week in a factory paying so little is not enough work.

Factory employees have also complained of verbal and physical abuse, including being slapped or hit with shoes thrown by supervisors. They say they are sometimes forced to work through lunch breaks and are often unable to take toilet breaks.

One woman working in a shoe factory said that “there are many times when workers are working without payment on overtime, or are not paid properly. Every day there’s a worker who passes out because they’re exhausted or unwell.”

After ongoing talks, LOGOC and the Trades Union Congress, on behalf of Playfair 2012 Campaign, made an agreement in February, under which LOCOG’s Sourcing Code, which covers all contracts with suppliers/licensees, is to include adherence to the Ethical Trading Initiative base code.

All LOCOG’s commercial partners, suppliers and licensees must comply with standards including payment of a living wage, respect for the right to freedom of association and safe and healthy working conditions.

Playfair 2012 called the agreement “a big step forward, and the first time this has ever happened for a major world sporting event. However, the real test is whether these standards are actually being respected in the workplace.”

The Independent reported that none of the Indonesian employees had heard of the ETI base code or LOCOG’s complaints mechanism, set up to enable workers to report labour violations.

As recently as February, LOCOG had only had its information material translated into Mandarin, and had not yet disseminated any of it in factories.

According to Playfair 2012, “adidas’s own safeguards have failed as this is an industry which defaults to the lowest standards in order to make the most profit.”

A spokeswoman for LOCOG said: “We… take these allegations extremely seriously.

“We have spoken to adidas and they have assured us that they are investigating these allegations, the conclusions of which will be made public. ”

British designer Stella McCartney created the British team kit for adidas.

“You shouldn’t have to sacrifice style for sport,” she said, at the launch of the kit.

Neither should you have to sacrifice workers’ rights.

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