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12 April 2012 | Adam Leach
Trade unions are putting pressure on South African Olympic bosses to cancel a deal to manufacture athlete kit for London 2012 in China and award it to a domestic manufacturer instead.
Yesterday, the KwaZulu-Natal National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) joined the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in criticising the decision of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) to have the country’s athletes wear uniforms made by the Chinese sportswear brand ERKE.
SASCOC launched the new kit – which athletes will wear in London and the next Olympics and Paralympics in Rio in 2016 – at the start of April. It includes tracksuits, casual wear and some luggage.
But the decision has not proved popular with the unions. “We refuse to see our Olympic team donning a kit made in China, whereas the kit could have been made or manufactured in our own country,” said a NUMSA statement. “Even worse, the very same players are expected to wear or don this kit and will be doing so with the shame in their faces.”
Last week, COSATU claimed the decision “flies in the face of the Local Procurement Accord”, the agreement signed by government, business labour groups and communities to promote local sourcing. “The accord designated clothing, textiles and leather footwear as a key sector for local procurement,” it added.
The two unions have called on SASCOC to cancel the contract and instead award to a business signed up to the Proudly South African campaign to support local businesses.
A spokesman for SASCOC told SM the deal with ERKE is part of a four-year agreement where the clothing manufacturer will provide R30 million ($3.8 million) in funding in order to sponsor and manufacture the kits for the Olympics and a range of other sporting events. He added SASCOC had initially advertised the opportunity to South African businesses but that no offers were forthcoming, leaving them with little choice but to look for foreign suppliers.
Speaking at the kit’s launch, SASCOC CEO Tubby Reddy said: “I’m confident that our kit manufacturing company ERKE has come up with cutting edge apparel for our men and women in London.
“We gave them very exacting requirements in terms of quality and style and I have every reason to think that team South Africa will be more than happy with what we show them tonight.”
The complaints echo similar criticism faced by the South African Rugby Union ahead of the Rugby World Cup last year over the origin of its jerseys.