NEWS • VIEWS • INFORMATION • ADVICE
From Sri Lanka to London 2012 – a global campaign for a sweat-free Olympics
The NASUWT has pledged its support for the Playfair 2012 campaign, which is pressing for next year’s London Olympics to be sweatshop-free.
Sportswear sales in the UK were estimated at £4.5 billion in 2010, with Adidas and Nike the global leaders, and Pentland (makers of Speedo) the largest UK-based brand. These household names will have a high profile at London 2012 and their sales and profits are predicted to rise as the games approach.
However, there is another story behind their prolific success. All three companies source their products from Sri Lanka and the NASUWT invited former garment worker and trade union activist Nirosha Priyadarshini Manankanda Dewage to speak at its Annual Conference at Easter about the realities facing sportswear workers in her country.
Here she explains more about why it is time for change.
What are the main issues facing sportswear workers?
“The legal minimum wage in Sri Lanka is Rs7,900 (£45 per month). Although workers making goods for Adidas, Nike and Speedo tend to get paid Rs10,000 (£55 per month) this is still below the official UN global poverty line of $2 a day.
“People can’t meet their basic needs with this meagre wage. A recent survey by the Sri Lankan government found that 67 per cent of women working in the garment sector are suffering from anaemia because of poor diet.“
“Production targets are unrealistic and are never discussed or agreed with the workers or their union. Sometimes workers are expected to sew as many as 100 pieces in one hour. For example, attaching two sleeves to a garment is regarded as finishing one piece, which means workers have just 0.3 seconds to sew each sleeve on.
“It’s also common for workers to be verbally abused to pressure them into reaching their targets.”
“Women make up around 85 per cent of workers in the garment industry, the second biggest sector in the Sri Lankan economy. These mainly female garment workers are looked down upon by the rest of society. Many are young women who have migrated from rural areas and know little about their workplace rights – and most of them are the main breadwinners for their families.
“Many suppliers ask if the women are married when they go for an interview and if they say they are, they are subtly discouraged from having children for a while.
“When my union looked into this, we found that two companies supplying to Adidas and Nike made potential employees take a pregnancy test at interview stage and pregnant workers were not hired.”
Hostility to unions
“My union, the FTZ&GSEU organises about 16,000 workers in Sri Lanka’s free trade zones, and until 1994 it was illegal to establish a union here. In the garment sector only about ten per cent of workers belong to a union.
“Fear is a major factor that puts people off joining. Some workers have seen others lose their jobs because of their involvement in unions and they are worried the same might happen to them.”
The Play.fair campaign aims to end these abuses, and the campaign, which is being coordinated through the TUC, has had a number of successes, including a commitment from the London 2012 organisers to compel suppliers to meet international labour standards. However, there is still much more to do.
What you can do
and take the campaign action to put pressure on sportswear brands to pay workers a living wage and improve working conditions;
raise awareness among your students by using the new package of teaching resources designed by the NASUWT to promote the campaign. The Fair’s Fair resources are available at www.playfair2012.org.uk
| Page 2
| Page 3
| Page 4
| Page 5
| Page 6
| Page 7
| Page 8
| Page 9
| Page 10
| Page 11
| Page 12
| Page 13
| Page 14
| Page 15
| Page 16
| Page 17
| Page 18
| Page 19
| Page 20
| Page 21
| Page 22
| Page 23
| Page 24
| Page 25
| Page 26
| Page 27
| Page 28
| Page 29
| Page 30
| Page 31
| Page 32
| Page 33
| Page 34
| Page 35
| Page 36