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Cam/Ed/TNMr Michel Zen-Ruffinen
General Secretary
Hitzigweg 11, P.O. Box 85
8030 Zurich

By Telefax 41 1 384 9696

6 July 2000

Dear Mr Zen-Ruffinen,

Labour Standards

            Thank you for your letter received on 18 May concerning labour standards in the production of FIFA-licensed goods and developments involving the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI). Your letter begins with a reference to advancing the cause of establishing standards for child labour and to continue and expand the work begun in 1996. Since our initial contact in 1996, we have endeavoured to work with FIFA to help find ways of ending violations of fundamental international labour standards in production under FIFA's Denominations Programme. However, our interest has always been with the need to promote and respect existing standards and not to establish new ones. Our concern has always included child labour but has also included other abuses and exploitation in the sporting goods industry as well as the need to promote and protect the human rights of workers in this industry including the right of workers to join trade unions and to bargain collectively.

            The exploitation of workers and abusive labour practices continue to be widespread in the sporting goods industry. This remains true even in the football stitching industry in Sialkot, Pakistan which has received the most international attention. The actual situation in Sialkot has been documented in a recent report from the IGFTU-affiliated All Pakistan Federation of Labour (APFOL) which we are sending to you under separate cover. This report includes a detailed survey covering 39 companies producing footballs, including several companies that are supplying goods within the Denominations Programme. The APFOL report makes clear that, although some progress has been made in tackling child labour in the major stitching centres, children are still working for contractors producing footballs outside the main stitching centres. This report identifies the low wages paid to adult workers in football production in Sialkot as a major contributory factor to the continued reliance by many families on work done by their children. The report also confirms that violations of the right to join and organise trade unions and of the right to collective bargaining are widespread in the Sialkot sporting goods industry, including within companies supplying products within the FIFA Denominations Programme.

            We also want to draw your attention to another report concerning labour practices in the sporting goods industry, which has been released recently by the India Committee of the Netherlands. We understand that a copy of this report has been sent to you. This report, which concerns the production of footballs in India, finds widespread exploitation and abuse including:

  • Substantial use of child labour;
  • Adult werkers being paid far below even the official minimum wage;
  • Denial of the rights of the adult workers to form and join unions and to bargain collectively;
  • Exemption from the provisions of the Factory Act thus denying workers the right to an employment contract, annual bonus, overtime pay and other statutory provisions;
  • Inadequate health, safety and sanitary provision; and,
  • Misuse of advances paid to workers.
            The India Committee of the Netherlands report confirms that there are violations of FIFA/ISL contractual provisions concerning labour standards by companies supplying goods within the Denominations Programme. This report also indicates the existence of evidence that at least some of these companies as well as others are hiding production in order to avoid the discovery of exploitation and abuse. This raises serious questions concerning the existing monitoring programme. It should also serve to remind us that companies in the sporting goods industry use the elaborate system of sub-contracting not only to avoid the obligations of the employer but also to make it difficult to discover gross exploitation and abuses that are regularly taking place. We are sure that you will agree with us that increasing transparency in the organisation of production in this industry will be essential to eradicating exploitation and abuse and that the suppression of information concerning labour practices is, in this context, unethical.

            The India Committee of the Netherlands report refers to ILO-IPEC sponsored research carried by the V.V. Giri National Labour Institute (NLI). The NLI estimates the average daily earnings for adult male workers in the Indian sporting goods industry as 2ORs which is only a fraction of the minimum wage which in itself cannot adequately support an average family. Here again the low level of adult wages is a major cause of child labour in this industry. The unavoidable conclusion is that child labour in this industry cannot be brought under control as long as the companies and their sub-contractors in this industry continue to prevent adult workers from exercising their right to form and join trade unions and to bargain collectively in order to increase their incomes.

            We note the developments you have outlined with respect to the WFSGI Model Code and the intention of ISL to apply a revised WFSGI Code across a range of licensing agreements. We appreciate your understanding that the WFSGI cannot substitute for FIFA's exercise of its own responsibilities. Although FIFA through the ISL can make respect for any code of labour practice a binding obligation in its Denominations Programme, the WFSGI cannot require its member companies to adopt or implement its model code or indeed any code. A WFSGI Model code must not have the effect of suggesting that companies because they are members of an industry association have adopted, or are implementing, ethical codes when in fact they have not.

            We have outlined in previous correspondence our concerns about the deficiencies in the WFSGI Code, many of whose provisions are less clear or otherwise inferior to the provisions of the Code agreed between us in 1996 and to other well known and widely-accepted codes of labour practice. Your letter refers to a global sporting goods industry position to achieve broad consensus in a democratie fashion on revisions to the Model Code. It is important to understand that, with respect to labour practices in the manufacturing of sporting goods, the WFSGI and its members represent only one side of their industry. The organisations of the people who work in this industry have not been included in the process. This is not because the WFSGI does not have an appropriate interlocutor. The WFSGI has, in the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation, an international counterpart and potential partner with which to develop a credible industry response to the widespread exploitation and abuse in the manufacturing of spoffing goods.

            It is now four years since we first began discussions on respect for labour standards in the production of FIFA-licensed goods. We are frequently asked by our affiliates and by others as to why there has been so little progress. We would therefore propose that we meet at an early opportunity in order to explore how, working together, we can address this concern.

Bill Jordan,
General Secretary, ICFTU
Neil Kearney,
General Secretary, ITGLWF
Yours sincerely,

Phillip Jennings,
General Secretary, UNI

CcK Tapiola, ILO
A Gorgemans, WFSGI


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Landelijke India Werkgroep - June 26, 2001