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Nike: The Young Report: "A public relations exercise"
ICFTU Online..., 182/970630/LD, 2 July 1997
Brussels, June 30 1997 (ICFTU OnLine): The sentencing on Friday (June 27) of a supervisor at a Nike factory in Vietnam to six months in prison calls into question a report published three days earlier by a firm of consultants on behalf of the sports shoe giant which claims workers for the multinational are "well treated".
On June 27, Hsu Jiu Yen, a supervisor at the Pou Chen Vietnam Enterprise Limited factory, which makes sports shoes for Nike, was sentenced to six months' imprisonment for forcing 56 women workers to run a 4 km circuit around the factory in the full heat of the sun for failing to wear regulation footwear. Eight of the women workers lost consciousness and had to be taken to hospital.
The sentence comes three days after the consultancy firm Goodworks International led by former US ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, concluded in a study carried out for the multinational that workers at Nike factories in Asia were well treated.
According to the Young report, "the twelve factories visited in China, Vietnam and Indonesia are clean, well-organised, well ventilated and well lit."
Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation, ITGLWF, describes the Young report as "nothing more than a public relations exercise".
"The visits to the factories were carefully prepared and it can hardly be described as an independent study". Mr. Kearney recalls that the ITGLWF contacted Goodworks International to discuss independent monitoring, "but they did not even have the courtesy to reply". "Organising publicity exercises will not solve the problem of worker exploitation in the factories" said the ITGLWF General Secretary.
In Ho Chi Minh city, the organisation Vietnam Labour Watch (VLW) has also questioned the Young report. "I think the sentence handed down to Mrs. Hsu Jyu Yen is harsh. I don't think this woman deserves to spend six months in a Vietnamese jail, because she was just doing what the company has taught her to do. She is just a scapegoat for Nike's horrible labour practices in Vietnam." said Thuyen Nguyen of the VLW.
Last March Vietnam Labour Watch listed in a report on workers' rights violations the five factories - two South Korean and three Taiwanese - operating for Nike in Vietnam. The organisation pointed to wages below the legal minimum, restrictions on the right to go to the toilet, and many other abuses, including sexual harassment.
In its annual report published in June, the ICFTU also expressed concern at the behaviour of employers in Nike subsidiaries in Vietnam. Last year, the head of a Korean factory working for the multinational was found guilty of beating his Vietnamese employees with a shoe.
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