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LOCOG: paper promises, no real change

From Labour Behind The Label

As part of the Playfair 2012 campaign we've been lobbying the London Games organisers (LOCOG) to ensure workers making garments and merchandise for the Olympics have their rights respected. And on paper we've had reasonable success. But problems arise when we dig deeper.

LOCOG have adopted a commendable sourcing requirements (based on the Ethical Trading Initiative code) that requires all suppliers and licensees, to make sure, among other things, all factories pay workers a living wage and allow workers the chance to join a union. They've also set up a complaints mechanism to allow workers to raise concerns about their rights and safety. LOCOG's sustainability report states that adidas has managed '100% compliance' with the code, and so far, no complaints have been made to the mechanism. Sounds good yes? Unfortunately not...

The complaints mechanism hasn't been advertised to the appropriate parties, details are hidden deep within LOCOG's website and to date are are only available in English. LOCOG haven't carried out any trainings on the mechanism with workers and their supplier list hasn't been publicly disclosed, so unions or local NGOs and organisers can't promote the mechanism to workers either.

So what are LOCOG doing to make this mechanism more than a paper exercise? They have 'asked suppliers' to tell workers about it. Unsurprisingly, workers we've spoken to report that they haven't heard anything about it. When you think it through, this isn't rocket science. Asking suppliers (who incidentally have to pay the cost of any complaint investigation) to inform their workers how to make a complaint isn't likely to result in it happening. Would you ask a fox to tell the chickens how to complain to the farmer if they are afraid for their safety? Probably not.

Furthermore, when we asked adidas about how work was developing on paying a living wage, as per the LOCOG sourcing code, they refused to acknowledge that they were signed up to a living wage at all, and continue to promote compliance with a minimum wage.

So where to go next? Paper promises are all very well (and look good in sustainability reports) but the real question is whether they make any difference for workers in developing countries struggling to fight for their rights and make ends meet on poverty pay. LOCOG need to open their eyes to the reality of their system and start doing something to turn promises into a reality.
06 December 2011, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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