Adidas, Nike, Puma underpay Bangladeshis

Multinational sportswear companies Adidas, Nike and Puma who will market their goods to worldwide audiences in Olympics do not pay Bangladeshis minimum wages in five of their six product-manufacturing factories in Bangladesh.

"Race to the bottom," a report released by a British charity organisation, War on Want, has exposed exploitation of Bangladeshi workers producing goods for the three companies in the run-up to London 2012 Olympic Games.

The report presented a detailed picture of the conditions faced by workers in Bangladesh, mostly women, who produce the sportswear they sell.

"As well as gaining access to worldwide audiences to promote their products they (the companies) also aim to associate themselves with the Olympic values of fair play and respect," read excerpts from the research given on the charity organisation's official website in addition to the full research report.

"Our research finds that for the workers making goods for Adidas, Nike and Puma in Bangladesh, there is little sign of fair play or respect. Five of the six factories covered by our research did not even pay their workers the Bangladeshi minimum wage, let alone a living wage that allow them to meet their basic needs," the excerpts continued.

In breach of Bangladeshi labour law, workers producing for the three companies are being paid only 16p, which is equivalent to Tk 20, per hour on average, with two thirds of the workers working over 60 hours a week, revealed the research.

Bangladesh's labour law sets the standard minimum wage for garment workers earning equivalent to 94p a day while the working hour is fixed to be 48 hours a week, the report said.

"Many suffer abuse in the workplace, including sexual harassment and beatings," said the report focusing on the condition workers work for the sportswear companies.

The report has been prepared by taking workers detailed interviews.

"While low wages secure huge profits for the global sportswear industry, the more than three million workers in the Bangladesh clothing industry are left with an income that is often less than the living wage," said the report after mentioning that Bangladeshi minimum wage is one of the lowest in Asia and in the world as well.

Adidas has become sportswear partner of the London Olympic scheduled for Aug 29 to Sep 9 this year by spending £100 million. Adiddas would be able to clothe 70,000 volunteers of the Olympic and has the right to use the Olympic logo on its products.

Adidas hopes to achieve over £100 million in sales from its Olympic clothing lines alone. About 775,000 workers, mostly came through outsourcing, in 1,200 factories across 65 countries are making products for Adidas, which have enormous influence over the people employing workers for it.

Nike, the world's largest sport brand, has secured its association with the London Olympic Games through the official sponsorship of a range of high profile teams including the USA and athletes such as Mark Cavendish and Paula Radcliffe. Through its supply chains Nike influences the conditions of more than 800,000 employees in 700 factories across 45 countries, the report mentioned.

Puma's largest profile sponsorship deal is its relationship with Usain Bolt, arguably the highest-profile athlete taking part in the 2012 Games as he defends his Olympic 100 metre and 200 metre titles. Puma's manufacturing is outsourced to over 350 factories, a majority of which are in developing economies, involving around 300,000 workers, said the report.

The report came down hard on the companies as they have been exploiting workers, especially in the poorest countries like Bangladesh, despite signing 'codes of conduct' against the practice.

It called on UK government for introducing a Commission on Business, Human Rights and the Environment for monitoring activities of UK companies operating in other countries.

"London 2012 is our opportunity to extend the Olympic spirit of fair play beyond the Games themselves, so that all those producing goods for sportswear brands in factories around the world can benefit, both now and into the future. Now that would be an Olympic legacy worth celebrating," War on Want executive director John Hilary said while concluding his preface to the report.

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