The international labor organizations, Oxfam, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Labor Behind the Label recently launched a campaign called “Play Fair at the Olympics.” The campaign singles out sportswear manufacturers particularly Puma for cutting corners on fair labor standards in their rush to produce for the Olympics.
In a press release, Oxfam stated that the Play Fair campaign draws on the testimony of workers and factory managers in Bulgaria, Cambodia, Thailand, China, Indonesia and Turkey to reveal how companies such as Puma, Fila and Asics are “undermining the very labor standards they claim to uphold.”
The release also contained testimony from a 22-year-old migrant worker who sews sportswear for Puma in a factory in Thailand. The passage described forced overtime, low wages, and an inability to unionize. Puma has since been engaged in an on-going dialog with Oxfam to determine the validity of these claims, and how to remedy any potential problems.
In e-mails with SEW, Puma AG representatives in Herzogenaurach, Germany described these meetings as “candid and productive” and stated that “PUMA will certainly continue to work with NGOs like Oxfam or the Fair Labor Association in the future.”
In a letter to Oxfam, Pumas Global Head of Environmental & Social Affairs, Dr. Reiner Hengstmann, said, “We share your concerns as they relate to the specific incidents described in “Fair Play at the Olympics”… But there are, however, certain points where we are initially skeptical of your findings related to our sourcing activities. We ask for your patience as we research the situations described ”
Dr. Hengstmann went on to describe Pumas development of its S.A.F.E. Team (Social Accountability and Fundamental Environmental Standards), which consists of seven members who internally audit Puma suppliers. Puma is also a member of the FLA, who provides independent third party audits of factory conditions.
While adidas was not named directly in the Oxfam press release, Frank Henke, adidas's director of social and environmental affairs, made a statement in response to the campaign.
“Events like the European Championships and the Olympics have drawn us into the epicenter of criticism if (our) suppliers fail to get their working standards up to scratch we stop their contracts,” Henke told reporters in Frankfurt.
Last year adidas ended contracts with factories in Brazil, El Salvador, Turkey and China after the company discovered dangerous working conditions, inaccurate accounting for the payment of wages, and excessive overtime requirements.