Onderstaand stuk verscheen op de website van: Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), 13-6-2002      

Show the Red Card to Exploitation in the Football Industry!

Congress World Cup 2002 Campaign


In 1996 the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and FIFA agreed the FIFA Code of Labour Practice which was designed to ensure that goods endorsed by the FIFA stamp were produced in compliance with core labour standards. This agreement was mirrored in Ireland by the signing of a joint declaration between Congress and the FAI in 1997.

In 1998 the ILO adopted the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This Declaration confirmed the recognition of the eight core labour standards as:

  1. Freedom of Association (No. 87) and the right to collective bargaining (No. 98)
  2. Elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour (No. 29 and 105)
  3. Effective abolition of child labour (No. 138 and 182)
  4. Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (No. 100 and 111)
All ILO members are now obliged to promote and realise the principles concerning these fundamental rights. The Declaration aims to enable people to :

“claim freely and on the basis of equality of opportunity their fair share of the wealth they have helped to generate, and to achieve fully their human potential.”

In a letter to the ICFTU in March 1999, FIFA indicated that future licensing agreements will contain a reference to this Declaration.

In addition - and this is lacking in many other codes of conduct - fair wages should be paid which "should be sufficient to meet basic needs and provide some discretionary income". The code further stipulates that workers shall normally not be required to work more than 48 hours a week, that a safe and healthy working environment shall be provided and that employers should endeavour to provide regular and secure employment. Licensee companies under this code "further agree to ensure that these conditions and standards are observed by each contractor and subcontractor". This is important because footballs (and many other products) are largely being produced through intermediary contractors and subcontractors, in homes and other small production units. In addition., FIFA and the international trade unions agreed on the necessity for effective monitoring. Furthermore they discussed the introduction of alternative education and training for children removed from the football producing industry.

FIFA and the sporting goods companies, whose products are licensed by FIFA, committed themselves in 1998 by contract to eliminate child labour and implement fair and decent working conditions for adults. This code was however not as strong as the original agreement with ICFTU and was not binding on members. This was due to resistance from the sporting goods industry.

The Reality

In recent years, FIFA has taken steps in the right direction by sponsoring inspection systems in Pakistan and India to eradicate child labour. A 1999 report by the All Pakistan Federation of Labour (APFOL) acknowledges that progress has been made in tackling child labour in major stitching centres. However, it claims that children are still working for contractors producing footballs outside the main stitching centres. It also estimates that the ILO Sialkot Project provided part-time education to 6,000 children against 15,000 children in the industry. Abusive labour practices continue to be widespread. These welcome measures apply only to a small fraction of the 17,000 FIFA licensed goods and only deal with one aspect of the code. \

In June 2000 a report was published by the India Committee of the Netherlands in co-operation with the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS) and its member organisation Volunteers for Social Justice (VSJ) in Punjab about child and adult labour in the Indian football industry. This report concludes that there are still at least 10,000 children working in the football industry in India's Punjab. The Sports Goods Federation of India, an organisation of the football manufacturers and exporters, has, however, started a child labour monitoring programme which is implemented by an independent auditing firm. Children who are found are to be enrolled in schools. Nevertheless, part of the exported football production in Punjab was still hidden from the inspection programme in 2001.

How much do they get paid?

The average daily earning of an adult male in football stitching is around Rs.20 (less than half a dollar) which is about one third of the present minimum wage of Rs.63 a day in India. The children get paid even less. Stitchers are normally not aware of the concept of minimum wage. For the stitchers working from their own homes, rent and electricity is not even taken into consideration and must be paid from their meager wages.

Most of the football stitchers are under-paid. The pay depends of the contractor or their skills, however, a study shows that about half of the stitchers in India are living below the poverty line. Four out of ten households involved in football stitching are headed by illiterate adults. About 90% of the households belong to the 'untouchables' (scheduled castes in India) or Dalits.

Many of them suffer from loss of eyesight, chronic back and neck pains, cuts on their fingers and even deformation of their fingers. For younger children, these conditions can last for their lifetime since proper treatment is usually not given.

Stitchers are not organized in a union to demand their collective rights to fair working conditions and to fair wages.

There are two types of child stitchers. Some of them go to school and stitch after school hours and other children stitch footballs full-time. Even though children work part-time, they are often not able to concentrate on their studies due to fatigue and time devoted to working instead of playing and studying. Children as young as 5 years old can be found stitching footballs. Of all full-time working children in India, 37% are between 5 and 12 years old.

The report gives ample evidence that labour conditions which are part of the contracts between FIFA and the sporting goods companies are violated on a large scale. The wages are generally far below - in most cases even less than half - the official minimum wage, while the health, safety and sanitary provisions are grossly inadequate. Also the workers are absolutely dependent on contractors and have de facto no right to organise or bargain collectively.

It is incomprehensible that FIFA limits its programme of inspection in Pakistan and India to the issue of child labour, while other important contractual obligations on wages, health provisions and trade union rights are not monitored. These other obligations can be of great help for eradicating child labour and giving children a better chance in life, including a good education.

Due to the negative publicity of child labour in sporting goods industry in India and Pakistan, there are now suspicions that some of the industry may have moved to China and elsewhere in Asia and Latin America.

You can help !

Contact FIFA and the FAI to let them know that you want them to Show the Red Card to Exploitation in the Football and Sporting Goods Industry. Enjoy the World Cup all the more by raising your voice in solidarity with the millions of workers exploited in this industry.

  • Use the Campaign Postcard to contact the FAI, urging them to:
    • Raise at senior level within FIFA structures, the issue of the present contract and the need to improve that between FIFA and the sporting goods companies up to the level of the original agreement between FIFA and the international trade unions, including the payment of living wages to the workers;
    • Also to enquire about the use of independent inspection systems in the countries from which FIFA licensed goods are sourced by sporting goods companies.
    • Thus ensuring that no child labour is employed in the football industry, that former working children are properly rehabilitated and that the wages and working conditions of adults meet the standards set by the agreement between FIFA and the international trade unions.
    • Include the joint declaration in FAIr contracts with sponsors and suppliers of sporting goods and to make sure that this agreement is monitored and independently verified.
  • Sign the online petition urging FIFA to ensure that the 2002 World Cup Plays Fair!

  • Print it out and get it signed widely in your locality or workplace.
  • Write to sporting goods companies urging them to:
    • fully implement their contractual agreement with FIFA on child labour and labour rights and pay a 'living wage' to the workers before the start of the 2002 FIFA World Cup;
    • disclose all the production sites of sporting goods and publish independently verified reports that their goods are produced in compliance with the FIFA Contract with the provision of living wages;
    • implement a Code of Labour Practice of which the quality is not less than the agreement reached in 1996 between FIFA and the international trade unions.
Send mail to webmaster@ictu.ie with questions or comments about this site. Last modified: June 13, 2002





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