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Flame for workers’ rights passes to Sochi and Brazil

19 September, 2012The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games ended on 9 September, and the Play Fair campaign now shifts focus to ensuring future Olympic and World Cup events in Sochi and Brazil have concern for the rights of workers at their core.

IndustriALL Global Union welcomes progress made by the organizers of London 2012 (LOCOG), but is dismayed that Play Fair’s calls for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take steps to protect the human rights of workers in Olympic supply chains continues to fall upon deaf ears. Only the IOC has power to develop a policy that would apply to all Olympic Games host countries.

As the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games end IndustriALL calls on the IOC to commit to working with the organizers of London 2012, Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 so that progress made in London can be built upon and advances made where LOCOG fell short.

A key demand from the Play Fair campaign is that Olympic products should only be made in factories where the human rights of workers are respected. In response to this demand LOCOG developed a Sustainable Sourcing Code for London 2012, based on the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code. Following engagement with Play Fair LOCOG also developed a complaints mechanism to enable workers in its global supply chains to report violations of their rights.

These steps did not go far enough to ensure that goods were made in the right conditions. LOCOG refused to work with unions in producer countries to monitor workplace conditions, and failed to inform factory workers about the existence of the complaints mechanism.

Exploitative working conditions in Olympic supplier factories were exposed in two reports published by Play Fair in 2012. Immediately prior to the publication of Toying with Workers Rights LOCOG negotiated an agreement with the British TUC, which saw them publish the names and locations of supplier factories in China and the UK covering 72 per cent of licensed goods for London 2012 and commit to improving workers’ awareness of their rights, including by providing training to some workers in Olympic supply chains. Following the release of Fair Games? 5,964 people took action calling on the IOC and major sportswear brands to up their game by ensuring that workers are guaranteed freedom to organize, are paid living wages, and benefit from secure employment relationships.

Play Fair submitted formal complaints about working conditions to LOCOG, utilizing the new complaints mechanism. Mediation on the complaints is underway. A complaint on working conditions in the Mactan Economic Zone in the Philippines catalysed a wider multi-stakeholder process, which resulted in the signing of a cooperation agreement in August 2012 between Adidas, Brooks Running and New Balance, IndustriALL affiliates, suppliers, NGOs, and the Filipino government.

Despite advances made during the course of the campaign, little has changed for the vast majority of workers making sportswear, who continue to be paid poverty wages, are forced to work excessive overtime and are routinely denied the rights to organize and bargain collectively.

The cost of 1 of the 11 million tickets available to watch the Olympics and Paralympics ranged between 20 GBP to 2,000 GBP, meanwhile the economic reality for a worker in China was to receive less than 100 GBP a month to produce the Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, which is less than half the living wage in the region.

Beyond London 2012 the Play Fair campaign will continue to campaign and lobby sportswear brands and the organizers of mega sports events to ensure respect for the human rights of workers making their goods.