AHEAD of the start of the 2018 World Cup in Russia this weekend, campaigners have urged global sportswear manufacturers Adidas and Nike to pay workers at their supplier factories in Asia a fair wage.
The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) released a report this week which claimed that workers in countries like Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam, where most of these companies’ products are produced, have seen share of the price of a pair of shoes drop by 30 percent between 1995 and 2017.
In the three nations, garment workers’ average salaries are 45 to 65 percent below the so-called “living wage” that would allow them to cover their families’ basic needs, said the global coalition of trade unions, workers and human rights groups.
“The brands decided to spend their money on football players rather than on the workers stitching their shirts and shoes,” the CCC said in a statement.
Adidas and Nike are the manufacturers for 22 out of the 32 teams competing in this year’s World Cup tournament. The German team alone is being paid more than $75 million per year under a contract negotiated with Adidas in 2016 – the largest such contract in football history.
Responding to the report, German manufacturer Adidas said it adhered to safe working conditions and fair wages throughout its supply chains, and obliged suppliers to pay at least the minimum wage required by law.
“The average monthly take-home wage of production workers in the facilities Adidas works with in Indonesia is currently well above the current minimum wage,” an Adidas spokeswoman said.
US brand Nike said its suppliers must pay their employees at least the local minimum wage or prevailing wage, including premiums for overtime worked and legally mandated benefits.
“We remain invested in conversations with governments, manufacturers, NGOs, brands, unions, and factory workers to support long-lasting, systemic change,” a Nike spokeswoman said.
Much of Adidas’ and Nike’s sportswear is made in Indonesia, where 80 percent of workers in the garment sector are women and some make as little as $102 a month while others do not earn the legal minimum wage, according to the CCC’s report.
“We demand a new protocol on wages. Brands should change their buying practices because they affect the working conditions,” said Raja, an Indonesian trade unionist in a statement released by CCC.
“Knowing that the labour cost of a t-shirt produced in Indonesia is hardly 1 percent of the price, it seems logical to me that the labour cost can be increased a bit, right? But the sportswear brands until now refuse to engage.”
Weekly wages should be enough to meet workers’ basic needs and afford them extra income to improve their lives in order to avoid them remaining “trapped in a cycle of poverty”, according to Martin Buttle of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).
“Brands like Nike and Adidas need to take their responsibilities seriously … and pay suppliers a fair price,” Buttle told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Failure to do that can often result in low pay and poor conditions.”
Having signed an agreement in 2011 on trade unions’ rights in Indonesia, Nike and Adidas should now follow up on their pledges to address job security and living wages, the CCC said.
“This is a longstanding problem of poverty level wages … brands are squeezing the prices which then has an impact on the workers,” said Anannya Bhattacharjee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), a group which represents garment workers.
“(Soccer) is an inspirational sport but what everybody needs to remember is that the labour that goes behind the scenes to clothe the inspirational sportspeople is extreme exploitation and agony,” Bhattacharjee said. “That is what we need to stop.”
According to the International Labour Organisation, automated factory models being introduced by Nike and Adidas could threaten between 64 and 88 percent of industry jobs in Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia by 2050.
The sector currently provides for more than 9 million jobs in Southeast Asia, most of which are held by women.
Additional reporting from Reuters.