INTERNATIONAL CONFEDERATION OF FREE TRADE UNIONS (ICFTU)
Brussels, April 30, 1997 (ICFTU OnLine): In a factory in the outskirts of Jakarta which makes shoes for the US multinational Nike, 10,000 workers demonstrated last Tuesday to demand an immediate pay rise to reach to the minimum wage. The management at the factory (PT Hardaya Aneka Shoes Industri) initially refused, which led to stronger action by the workers. The factory was forced to close at the weekend and the management finally agreed to pay the monthly minimum wage.
In Vietnam, some 800 workers, mainly women, at the Korean Sam Yan Co. factory, which also makes shoes for Nike, went on strike last week to protest at their working conditions and wages.
In recent months several independent sources have denounced the serious violations of workers' rights by the five Nike factories in Vietnam (three South Korean and two Taiwanese). Wages below the legal minimum for the first three months, strictly controlled access to toilet facilities, a maximum of two glasses of water per working day, verbal abuse, sexual harassment and corporal punishment are all practices denounced in these factories. A supervisor at the Taiwanese factory Pou Chen Corp. found himself before a Vietnamese tribunal at the end of March for forcing 56 women workers to run 4km around the factory for not wearing regulation work shoes. Twelve of the women workers had to be taken to hospital. It is the second time that a manager at a factory working for Nike in Vietnam has been charged with ill-treating women workers. Last year, a supervisor at the Korean Sam Yang Co. factory, a Nike sub-contractor, was convicted for hitting his Vietnamese women employees over the head with a shoe.
Following the latest accusations, the Nike management simply stated that it could not confirm the events but that it was prepared to work with independent observers to examine and improve working conditions in its overseas factories. In 1992, Nike adopted its own code of conduct, but did not agree to independent monitoring. Last year, Nike created its own department responsible for supervising the application of its code of conduct and charged former US ambassador Andrew Young with studying and evaluating improvements to be made to the code of conduct and supervisory mechanisms. The Nike code of conduct makes no mention of the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
Only two weeks ago, Nike finally complied with the code of conduct drawn up by the Clinton administration aimed at eliminating exploitation in clothing factories. The initiative received a cautious welcome from the international trade union movement, which points to the absence of monitoring mechanisms. The latest revelations in the Nike factories in Vietnam and Indonesia have underlined the need for such caution.
"Given the increasing number of workers' rights violations by Nike sub-contractors in recent months, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that that the code of conduct policy is just a public relations exercise" says Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the international textile workers (ITGLWF).
Nike's abundant profits (four billion dollars are forecast for 1997) are based on the huge profit marge between the cost of producing the shoes and their sale price on the market. To safeguard its profit margin at all costs, Nike has transferred production to the lowest wage coufntries and to those where legislation gives the least protection for workers' rights. Nike wins every time. Workers and consumers are the losers.
For details contact ICFTU Press at ++322 224 02 12 or the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF) Tel.:++32-2-512-26-02. Other OnLine news on Poptel Bulletin Board ICFTU-Online for geonet users and on the WWW at:http://www.icftu.org