Footloose Nike leaves workers rights behind

Davos, 27.01.2003 - Thousands of workers in Asian factories that supply multinationals including Nike, Adidas and Levis have been thrown into unemployment and denied their entitled severance pay, according to Australian development agency Oxfam Community Aid Abroad (Oxfam Australia).

These claims were made today at the Public Eye on Davos conference in Switzerland. The conference, hosted by an international coalition of NGOs and coordinated by the Berne Declaration, is running parallel to the World Economic Forum in Davos. The conference organisers are calling for binding international regulation of corporate activities.

Joining Tim Connor of Oxfam Community Aid Abroad on a conference panel were Yeheskiel Prabowo of the Indonesian Textile, Garment and Leather Worker's Union (TSK) and Ida Mustari, a worker from the PT Doson factory in Indonesia. The Doson factory closed in September 2002 when Nike, the factory's sole customer, cut its orders. The 7,000 workers from the factory are yet to receive their legal entitlements.

"We are concerned that just as free and democratic unions are starting to emerge in Indonesia and to campaign for better working conditions, foreign investors like Nike are reducing their investment and moving to countries where union rights are not respected", said Mr. Prabowo.

Last month Oxfam Community Aid Abroad met with workers from the Bed and Bath Prestige factory, a Thai factory which supplied companies including Nike, Adidas and Levis. In October 2002 the owner closed the factory and disappeared, owing workers back pay and severance pay. Nike, Adidas, Levis and the other buyers have refused to pay for workers' entitlements.

Workers in the Bed and Bath Prestige factory described working up to 110 hours per week. Employees reported that the factory owner made amphetamines freely available in factory drink containers during peak times. They said that almost all workers took them, as it was the only way they could work the hours demanded of them.

"Transnational corporations like Nike could provide stable, long-term, decently paid jobs", said Tim Connor, Oxfam Community Aid Abroad’s NikeWatch Coordinator. "They could maintain investment in countries that seek to protect workers' rights. Instead, the practice of contracting out production by companies such as Nike, Adidas and Levis puts factory owners in competition with each other to reduce costs, increase flexibility and speed up production. That pressure translates into poor working conditions."

To arrange an interview with Tim Connor of Oxfam Community Aid Abroad, Yeheskiel Prabowo, Ida Mustari or Stefan Indermühle of the Berne Declaration, contact 0041 79 705 02 53