War on Want’s report Race to the Bottom exposed the exploitation of sweatshop workers in Bangladesh making clothes for Nike and Puma and Adidas. How did the companies respond to the allegations? We spoke to War on Want to find out, and hear about their new Olympics campaign .
Low wages, poor working conditions, inability to form worker’s unions. It’s a story we’ve heard many times before. However it’s normally associated with cut price retailers, not higher end brands.
Adidas, Nike and Puma have been accused of using factories that are guilty of a range of human rights abuses. “We visited six factories in Bangladesh,” explained Murray Worthy, War on Want’s Sweat Shop Campaigner. “We found unacceptable conditions. Workers were being paid 9p per hour, which is well below the cost of living. As a result many were doing long overtime of up to 60 hours per week. In some cases it was even as high as 90 hours. There were other problems too: sexual harassment; bullying; banning of workers’ unions.”
War on Want wrote to the three companies but only one – Addidas – responded. “They seemed unwilling to do anything,” said Murray. “They sent us a lengthy reply but it was mainly general concern. There was no definite action mentioned.”
The discovery of these sweatshops comes at the same time as these brands are wrapping themselves up in the ideals of the Olympic Games. Campaigners argue that while they are spending millions on global marketing and advertising around the Olympics, workers in Bangladesh barely earn enough to eat.
In the run up to the London 2012 War on Want will be launching a brand attack on one of the three sportswear companies. They want your help with putting pressure on these companies to do the right thing. Details of the campaign are still to be announced, but if you’re interested in finding out more visit www.waronwant.org/olympics
Photo: War on Want