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Monday, 4 September, 2000, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
Athletes urged to rethink Nike ties
Jim Keady
Former US soccer pro Jim Keady launching the report
Athletes competing in the upcoming Sydney Olympics should think closely about ties with the sportswear manufacturer Nike, an Australian human rights group has said.

Nike logo
Nike says campaigners are targeting the wrong company
In a report released on Monday Community Aid Abroad-Oxfam (CAAO) said the sports manufacturer was failing to protect workers rights at Indonesian factories contracted to make its training shoes and paying them less than a living wage.

The CAAO's report documents cases of intimidation and harassment of women and union workers which it says are regular occurrences at Nike's Indonesian suppliers.

The group said athletes considering sponsorship deals with Nike should visit the Indonesian factories to see conditions there for themselves.

'Minor reforms'

Workers can't say what is happening in the factory for fear of losing their jobs

Community Aid Abroad-Oxfam report
"Nike has been pushing the line that it has reformed its human rights practices," said report author Tim Connor.

"The truth is that [there has been] only very minor and grudging reforms."

He said attempts by the US-based manufacturer to monitor the workforce had failed as the company only dealt with supervisors, not production-line workers.

According to the report, Indonesian workers received as little as $1 a day for manufacturing Nike products and were dissuaded by threats from becoming involved in union activities.

No company has done as much in terms of labor rights, code of conduct enforcement, age and wage improvements as we have

Nike statement, 4 September 2000
In one case it says a worker received an anonymous phone call warning him that if he valued his life he should stop publicising conditions in his factory.

In another case the report's authors found that although female workers are legally entitled to menstrual leave, if they tried to claim it they faced a humiliating physical examination by factory doctors.

'Starvation wage'

Nike factory
Nike has contracts with more than 700 factories around the world
Speaking at the launch of the report, former US professional soccer player Jim Keady told of how he had spent a month living with as Nike worker in Indonesia attempting to survive on his wage.

He said the experience had left him "hungry and exhausted".

"I can tell you it's not a great job for any human being," Keady told reporters. "It's a starvation wage."

He added that workers were "absolutely flabbergasted" when they were told how much athletes were paid for sportswear promotion deals.

'Improved conditions'

Nike is sponsoring more than 1,000 atheletes at the Sydney Games
"They begged us to bring these athletes to their homes to see how they are forced to live, ... how they don't make enough money to feed their children," he said.

In a statement Nike Australia defended itself saying it had implemented a number of measures to raise age requirements and wages for workers in Indonesia, as well as ensuring improved factory conditions.

"We uphold the Olympic ideal of human dignity," the company said. "Those campaigning to eliminate sweatshops are addressing the right issue, but targeting the wrong company."

Nike is sponsoring more than 1,000 athletes at this year's Olympics and is the official provider of clothing for the Games.

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See also:

21 Jan 99 | Asia-Pacific
Nike slams Vietnam labour critics
05 May 00 | Americas
Nike cuts university funding
19 Oct 99 | Americas
Reebok criticises own factories
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