So what’s the problem with Nike?Stars like Tiger Woods don’t come cheap. Each year Nike pays Woods USD $25 million to endorse their products. Nike also sponsors many other high profile athletes and teams in multi-million dollar deals. All the while the workers who make their product receive poverty wages and endure harsh working conditions.
We’re talking to NikeOxfam is encouraging Nike to improve its labour rights practices. Nike’s adoption of the Freedom of Association Protocol in Indonesia in 2011 is a promising step forward. The Protocol was negotiated by national unions, brands and suppliers in Indonesia and sets out guidelines to ensure workers are able to freely organise and collectively negotiate for improved conditions. Oxfam is now monitoring the Protocol’s impact and is calling on Nike to ensure its full implementation. In January 2008 we wrote to Nike’s CEO expressing our concerns about his company’s work practices. We also passed on messages from people all around the world asking that they improve human rights for workers. We have been communicating with Nike regarding its practices for a number of years. Read our correspondence with Nike. We have also seen Nike take some steps forward, which has led to some small, but important improvements for workers. When specific cases of labour rights violations have been brought to the company’s attention; Nike has taken steps to address these problems in some cases. But many, if not most, of their other factories continue to have oppressive work practices. Near enough is not good enough.
What’s the solution?
Better wagesWorkers require a living wage, one that allows them to meet the basic needs of a family after working a full-time working week without overtime. Unfortunately, Nike won’t commit to a living wage for its workers. But it will commit to paying already high earning sport stars millions of dollars to endorse their products.
The right to form trade unionsNike sets up shop in countries and free trade zones where it is illegal or extremely difficult for workers to organise into unions. Without this united structure it is near impossible for individual workers to ask for improved conditions without fear of retribution.
A confidential complaints processWhen workers suffer sexual harassment, intimidation, violence or other human rights violations they need to be able to access a confidential complaints mechanism, and they need those complaints to be taken seriously and handled sensitively. In response to public pressure, Nike has made some effort to establish complaint mechanisms in some factories, but most Nike workers don’t have access to a complaint mechanism which they have reason to trust.
Ban short-term contractsNike moves its production where it likes when it likes and does not ban or discourage short-term contracts for its workers. So when it leaves an area those workers on short-term contracts are left with nothing.
Incentives for respecting workers’ rightsNike should offer meaningful incentives to factories that respect workers’ rights, particularly workers’ right to organise trade unions. Without genuine incentives human rights abuses will continue.
- Nike and its work practices were reviewed in our comprehensive report Offside! Labour Rights and Sportswear Production in Asia (PDF, 4MB).
- Consider Nike’s perspective at nikebiz.com – workers and factories.