Sportswear buyers urged to do more on worker conditions

22 April 2008
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23 April 2008 | Paul Snell

Buyers of sportswear and equipment should sign up to a range of commitments to help improve worker conditions in their supply chains, a study has urged.

Clearing the Hurdles, produced by Play Fair 2008 - a collaboration between trade unions and campaign groups - found there has been little progress in improving worker treatment since 2004.

The report, which interviewed 320 workers in China, India, Thailand and Indonesia, set out four targets for buyers to achieve by the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010: to report fully on how suppliers are chosen to provide services; to undertake a review of prices paid to suppliers to ensure they provide a wage that meets basic needs; to provide unions with prices paid to suppliers per item and to make sure a living wage is paid in 25 per cent of all suppliers' factories.

The group added unless buyers, suppliers and sourcing agents worked together, improvements at factory level would be restricted.

Among the problems outlined in the report were workers making footballs in Pakistan, who earn between $0.57 and $0.65 (29p - 33p) per ball - a rate that hasn't changed in six years, despite consumer price inflation rising by 40 per cent in the same period.

Other examples included suppliers who, reacting to government increases in minimum wage payments, raised production targets, eliminated bonuses and introduced new charges for food and lodging for workers. The result is that workers now earn less income than before the wage increases.


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