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Issue #1541      28 March 2012

Real brand of Olympics 2012: Sweatshop labour

The nation’s media clamoured for a first glimpse of the new Stella McCartney-designed British Olympic kit – but with little thought to those who produce the garments, often in appalling conditions.

The Adidas-produced strips were unveiled to great fanfare on the Thursday.

On Saturday a delegation from the National Garment Workers Federation of Bangladesh addressed a public meeting aimed at highlighting the sweatshop conditions under which millions of workers labour often for a pittance.

The Federation is hoping to raise consumer consciousness over the issue and also forge greater links with unions in Britain.

NGWF president Amirul Haque Amin spoke to the Morning Star on the eve of the event organised by anti-poverty charity War on Want and the Trade Union Congress.

“Adidas is just one of many firms sourcing their goods in Bangladesh – there are also Nike and Puma, multinationals such as Tesco, Asda, M&S. Almost all of them use supply factories in Bangladesh,” he said.

“The conditions of the workers is almost identical in all these factories. Garment manufacturing is the biggest industry in Bangladesh and it is all export-orientated.

“There are around 5,000 factories which employ between three and six million workers. Eighty-five percent of these workers are women.

“Working conditions and salaries are very poor. The lowest grade is around £20 (AU$30) a month, for higher skilled workers around £30 (AU$45) per month.”

Many workers work seven day weeks and upwards of 14 hours a day.

While overtime is by law “voluntary” the wages are so poor that workers are compelled to work longer and longer hours to make ends meet. Many factory owners also force people to work longer hours.

Despite it being a legal requirement there are often no childcare facilities meaning many working mothers barely see their children, Amin said.

Discrimination is rife and many workers are never given an official letter of employment or contract.

Regarding the role of the multinationals, many of which have claimed in the past that they are not directly responsible for these conditions or that they pay an average wage, Amir is contemptuous.

“For a long-sleeved denim shirt they pay four-five dollars but they sell them for four or five times that.

“The garment industry is hugely profitable – how else could companies such as Adidas spend millions of pounds sponsoring these Olympics?

“Multinationals are the head of the whole trade. They are the key players. Why would they give the responsibility for production to someone else?

“Smart companies say: ‘We have a code of conduct, monitoring systems and in our code of conduct it clearly says we are providing a living wage and making sure workers are treated well.’ They are lying.”

Morning Star  

Next article – Libya: “Dawn” turns into chaos

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