Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Puma, Reebok and Gap are at it again - Sweatshop Use!
Sportswear and fashion brands have long been at the centre of allegations involving the use of sweatshops. Nike was once publicly exposed as using child labour in the production of their footballs but now its come to my attention that Puma, Reebok and Gap have been hit by claims of unethical practices involving the use of sweatshops in El Salvador.
A recent study was conducted by the American National Labour Committee in collaboration with Salvadoran women's right advocacy organisation Women Transforming over a 7 month period looking at factory conditions and involving interviews with workers, visiting their homes and lab tests on drinking water. The factory studied was Ocean Sky who make garments for many major retailers including Adidas subsidiary Puma, Reebok and Gap. They also make NFL shirts.
The study discovered that female workers at the factory were paid just 8 cents per NFL shirt when the shirts in question retail for $25 – that means they receive just 0.3% of the shirts retail value. A team of 14 workers is expected to sew 1500 per day (approximately 12 per hour per worker).
The women are held in appalling conditions and locked in the factory which is bordered with barbed wire and guarded by men carrying shotguns. The workers are cursed and humiliated with superiors often shouting abuse and obscenities if they don’t work fast enough. All overtime at Ocean Sky is mandatory which is illegal but goes on all the same. Workers at the factory earn just 72 cents per hour which the Salvadoran government freely admits is just a 1/4 of what a family needs to earn to cover even their basic needs.
Even the drinking water at the factory comes under fire. Despite the sweltering heat the drinking water itself is undrinkable. It was found to be contaminated and filthy and when tested contained fecal coli which can cause diarrhea, intestinal illness and serious infection. Six workers at the factory have been fired for daring to mention the state of the water and mention the word union and it earns you an instant dismissal.
No doubt Reebok, Puma and Gap will claim the had no idea what was going on but at the end of the day the buck stops with them. You would think with all the publicity surrounding unethical garment manufacturing and sweatshop use that they'd be more aware and do spot checks of their suppliers from time to time but it seems these companies value the bottom line above all else even human rights and ethical treatment. Gap has been supplied by this company for 5 years surely in all that time concerns would have been raised and action taken. We'll probably never know but one thing is for sure unethical practices likes these must stop but unfortunately unless consumers hit them where it hurts (in the pocket) things will probably never change.