Olympics: the dirty games

Submitted by Anon on 23 June, 2004 - 12:52

By Mick Duncan

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) is turning a blind eye to the super-exploitation of workers producing sportswear marketed around the Athens Olympic Games, and to the mistreatment of workers at the games venues.

Olympics: workers pay the price (1)

A protest took place in Athens on Sunday 6 June to highlight the health and safety violations being made as construction bosses cut corners in the rush to complete Athens' Olympic facilities. The need to have everything ready so that the corporate sport machine can make its millions has already led to the needless deaths of 13 construction workers.

Protest banners read: "13 workers dead at the construction works; the Olympic security was not for them" - a reference to the enormous and very expensive measures taken in Athens to prevent 'terrorist threats' against the games.

Olympics: workers pay the price (2)

According to the Olympics Charter, "The use of an Olympic emblem must contribute to the development of the Olympic Movement and must not detract from its dignity". However, Oxfam reports widespread abuses in factories producing sportswear bearing the Olympics emblem, including:

  • being forced to work shifts as long as 17 hours over six consecutive days;
  • union representatives are harassed and verbally abused;
  • workers on temporary contracts being paid half the standard monthly wage and forced to do unpaid overtime when they do not complete their piece-rate targets in normal working hours

Olympics: workers pay the price (3)

The TUC, Clean Clothes Campaign and Oxfam have launched 'Fair Play' to highlight the plight of sweatshop sportswear workers in the run-up to the Olympic Games. Protesters will be out to demand union rights and better pay as the Olympic torch is carried through London on Saturday 26 June.

In brief

No Sweat is holding a large second-hand book fair in London at the end of August/start of September. Can you help us raise money? We need donations of old books, CDs, videos and DVDs.

Either bring donations to your local No Sweat meeting (no matter where you are in the country) or contact us and we'll arrange to pick up. Email: admin@nosweat.org.uk

Umbro: in the spotlight

"We have endless overtime in the peak season and we sit working non-stop for 13 to 14 hours a day. We work like this every day until our arms feel sore and stiff."

Worker in Chinese factory producing for Umbro

As Euro 2004 kicks off, spare a thought for the sweatshop workers who make clothes for the UK's own sweatshop brand leader, Umbro. Umbro has one-third of the British replica sports kit market and is looking to become a leading brand across the world.

This British company supplies kit to a number of national sides, including Ireland, England and Scotland, as well as clubs such as Chelsea and Celtic.

Since 1999 its profits have increased four-fold, to £20m in 2003. These profits are made at the expense of Umbro workers.

In Bulgaria, in 1999, workers were found making Umbro clothes (labelled 'Made in Greece') for £50-60 per month. In 2000 Umbro producers in Vietnam were found earning around £20 per month. In China, in 2002, young workers making Umbro footballs were working 13-14 hours a day for six-and-a-half days a week.

Research on working conditions in factories producing for Umbro (2003-4) shows that:

  • workers frequently work a seven-day week in peak season
  • most are exhausted and in poor health
  • some are fined for refusing to work overtime
  • some are not paid the legal minimum wage in the low season
  • those with families have no time to spend with their children
  • those active in trade unions are commonly harassed and unfairly dismissed.

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