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Not everyone's in the pink

By Daisy Gardener - posted Friday, 1 February 2013


Roger Federer's hot pink Nike shoes were a major talking point of the Australian Open.

In Indonesia, workers making Nike could never afford these shoes, pink or not.

Recent reports of workers making Nike shoes in Indonesia being stood over by military personnel and forced to accept less than the minimum wage demonstrate the gap between a company's stated policies and practices.

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Over the past decade, following intense public pressure, Nike has developed a code of conduct and corporate social responsibility reporting.

It has done a lot to try to improve its practices in recent years, and also reports on the location of factories, the payment of minimum wages and other conditions in their 841 supplier factories around the world.

This transparency is an important step towards helping ensure workers are fairly treated, but it does not go far enough.

Recent events have shown there are still serious problems in the factories producing sportswear for Nike.

Two weeks ago, workers at the Sukabumi Nike supplier factory, west of Jakarta, were reportedly shouted at and threatened into agreeing their factory be exempt from paying them the legal minimum wage.

Workers in Indonesia tell Oxfam that the minimum wage is barely enough to feed themselves and their families.

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Wages remain very low across the entire footwear and garment sector. Alarmingly, threats and intimidation of workers are still common when workers try to organise to improve conditions.

Nike's own code of conduct expressly prohibits worker discrimination and intimidation. So why do workers' rights abuses persist?

While brands like Nike, Adidas, and Puma have codes of conduct which require supplier factories to uphold human rights, the internal 'sourcing departments' of the same companies – which coordinate all aspects of production - push supplier factories to provide the lowest possible costing for each pair of shoes or garment.

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About the Author

Daisy Gardener is Oxfam Australia's Labour Rights Coordinator. She has twelve years experience in women's rights and corporate accountability. Prior to joining Oxfam Australia in 2007 Daisy was the campaign coordinator for FairWear, focusing on the rights of home-based garment workers in Australia. She has published in Gender and Development. She lives in Melbourne.

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