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Factory workers are 'forced to lie' during Adidas safety inspections


It's no secret why Adidas and other sportswear brands such as Nike, Gap, H&M and others get most of their products manufactured in developing countries. Wages are cheap, labour law is lax, and people are desperate for jobs. Over the past decade, such companies – in response to public pressure – have taken steps to monitor their supply chains, enforcing minimum pay and conditions and outlawing child labour.

But as The Independent investigation of Adidas's Olympic suppliers demonstrates, along with other scandals such as the mistreatment of Chinese workers making Apple products, it is very difficult to control conditions in locally managed factories.

Adidas says it is committed to "ensuring fair labour practices, fair wages and safe working conditions throughout our global supply chain". It conducts hundreds of factory audits annually in 69 countries where it does business. However, workers in its Indonesian factories told The Independent that the audits are farcical.

"They're always announced beforehand, so we have to clean, we have to sweep," said Jamiatun, a union leader at PT Golden Continental, which is not an Olympic contractor. "The first-aid box is filled, and we're told what to say if the inspector speaks to us. We have to tell them we're paid the minimum wage, and we mustn't tell them we work overtime at weekends."

Ratna, a worker at PT Panarub, said: "They [the management] get people to hide in bathrooms, so there are fewer people on the production line and it looks more efficient. If Adidas wants to ask questions, the workers are prepared beforehand with questions and answers. We can never tell the truth, otherwise we might lose our jobs."

Adidas suppliers are required to display its workplace standards on the factory wall. In several factories, workers say the code is not displayed or has been taken down.

However, they also say that Adidas has been helpful at times in resolving complaints. Golden Castle workers used to have to work from early morning until 11pm on occasions; that stopped after they contacted the company's Indonesian representatives.

Anna McMullen, a spokeswoman for the Playfair 2012 campaign, a coalition of international groups seeking a "sweat-free Olympics", said yesterday: "Adidas's own safeguards have failed, as this is an industry which defaults to the lowest standards in order to make the most profit. Unless proactive intervention is taken to deliver living wages and rights, workplaces like these will continue to be the norm."