Sportswear makers 'failing to improve working conditions'

Just weeks ahead of the World Cup, a report from Oxfam claims that top brands such as Adidas, Nike, Fila and Puma use suppliers in Asia where workers - mainly women - are forced to work long hours for low wages and face dismissal if they protest against their conditions.

The charity warned that the increased demand for replica shirts, shoes and other merchandise triggered by the World Cup was adding to the "outrageous behaviour" of some suppliers used by the multimillion-pound brands.

Oxfam found that while many companies had professed to improve workers' rights in their factories, some were cutting ties with suppliers which improved working conditions and moving to countries where unions are not recognised.

The Oxfam report found that Nike makes 38 per cent of its shoes in countries where workers have no legal right to freedom of association, compared with 52 per cent in 1998. In recent years, the company has also stopped working with suppliers who negotiate with unions, a move that can lead to a rise in wages and costs.

Adidas Predator Pulse football boots, worn by David Beckham, are made at a factory in Indonesia where 30 union workers were recently sacked for taking part in a legal strike for a pay rise to compensate for huge increases in the cost of living.

Workers at the factory receive as little as 30p an hour, while Adidas pays the French player Zinedine Zidane almost £1m in sponsorship. Adidas refused to respond to Oxfam about whether the sacked workers will be reinstated.

Umbro, a sponsor of the England team, is criticised in the report for being slow in developing a labour rights programme, although recent progress was praised.

The biggest criticism was reserved for the Fila brand, owned by the American company Sport Brands International. According to Oxfam, Fila had been using a factory in Indonesia which had denied workers basic rights, subjected women to sexual harassment and committed serious labour abuses. When confronted with the evidence in 2004, Fila said there was little it could do. The factory was closed last year, leaving its workers without jobs. Fila has declined to help them and refused to give Oxfam investigators any details of its other suppliers or what steps it is taking to protect its suppliers' employees.

While some companies such as Nike and Adidas were praised for making a start on improving the rights of workers, Oxfam said too little was being done, too late.

The charity's investigations of factories in Asia found that as demand increased during peak times such as the World Cup, working conditions worsened. At one factory in Indonesia, employees were forced to work from 7am to 11pm without breaks.At another, a union official was assaulted by five men and told to stop campaigning for workers rights.

Cause for concern

NIKE Revenue (2004): £6.07 billion

Made in: Suppliers in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bulgaria and Indonesia

Criticism: Has cut ties with factories that have become unionised and increased production in countries where labour rights are not recognised.

ADIDAS Revenue (2004): £4.41 billion

Made in: Suppliers in Cambodia, Japan and Indonesia

Criticism: More than half its production is based in countries where trade union rights are illegal or very difficult to obtain.

UMBRO Revenue (2004): £140.37 million

Made in: Indonesia

Criticism: Declined to answer questions about suppliers; not doing enough to ensure that its workers rights are protected in factories.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before