|Issue No 78||17 November 2000|
Nike Workers Seek a Slice of Tiger
Former Nike Employees this week called on golf star Tiger Woods to pressure Nike to improve wages and working conditions highlighting that they would have to work for 14,000 days or 38 years to receive what Woods gets in a day's sponsorship.
Workers, labour rights activists and students staged an appeal to Tiger Woods to push Nike to improve factory conditions at the Shangri La hotel in Bangkok last Tuesday. Woods was there to receive an honorary doctorate of philosophy in sports science.
The group called on the golf champion, who has a US $100 million contract with Nike, to press Nike to improve working conditions in Thai factories.
Workers from Thai Iryo Garment Workers Union, Par Garment Workers Union and representatives from the Labour Coordinating Center, Thai Labour Campaign, Center for Labour Information Service and Training, All State Enterprise Worker Federation, StateRailway Workers Union and members of Thai Student Federation joined together in the appeal.
"We are calling on Tiger Woods to address the plight of Thai workers because he is a Nike spokesperson; this has nothing to do with the fact that he is part Thai," said Junya Yimprasert, coordinator of the Thai Labour Campaign.
"Nike must take responsibility for the welfare of workers producing their products no matter whether it is a factory or subcontractor and no matter the nationality of the employee," said Savit Kaewvarn, vice secretary general of the All State Enterprise Worker Federation.
It is estimated that there are over 70,000 workers producing shoes and sportswear for Nike in Thailand. Most of these workers receive only minimum wages with no welfare benefits. They work 10-12 hour days in often hazardous conditions.
One Nike employee who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of being fired, described often working until 2am to meet production quotas. Instead of receiving legal overtime pay, workers at her factory, in Lop Buri, were paid by piecework. "I have to leave my daughter at my parents' house because children are not allowed in the dormitories. I only see her every two weeks because I cannot afford to take time off to travel," she said.
In addition, thousands of Thai migrant workers are producing Nike products under abysmal conditions in Taiwan. Workers often have to work for years just to pay off their travelling and installment costs.
In contrast, through his five year Nike contract, Tiger woods earns US$55,000 a day.
A Thai worker producing Nike clothing would have to work for 14,000 days or 38 years to receive this same amount. On the contrary, Nike spends the equivalent of 14,000 workers daily salaries to pay Tiger Woods for just one day.
A worker would have to work for 26.5 million days or 72,000 years to receive what Tiger Woods gets during his five year contract with Nike.
Recently, factories producing for Nike in Thailand have been shifting production to subcontractors and non-union facilities and to the provinces where wages and benefits are even lower.
For example, unionized workers formerly producing for Nike at the Thai Iryo Garment factory in Rangsit were laid off while Nike production shifted to the Garment Tech factory in Bangkok and VT Garment in Sathupradit.
Many workers have been laid off from the unionized Lian Thai and Phar Garment factories just to wind up producing the same products for subcontractors and receiving lower wages without legal protection.
The workers presented an appeal to Tiger woods to ask Nike that all employees receive the equivalent of a living wage in the country in which they are producing.
This living wage should enable a worker and two dependents to be able to live in decent conditions.
The appeal called for Nike to respect worker rights to unionize and collectively bargain and to provide protection to labour leaders. In addition Nike must take responsibility for working conditions and ensure rights and decent wages in subcontracting facilities and piecework operations which are not protected by Thai law. Nike must ensure that its own safety standards are actually implemented in the factories.
"University students love to wear Nike. But we want them to understand that expensive Nike products are being produced by workers with no quality of life. Nike derives huge profits and spends millions on advertising but pays its workers next to nothing," said Sarayuth Jailak, secretary general of the Student Federation of Thailand.
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Satire: Hackers Infect Microsoft Computers With Mysterious Windows Virus
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005