Nike and Child Labour

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Nike and child labour

Nike is a household name when it comes to sports apparel and equipment. It has worked hard to burnish its image, especially by garnering endorsements from big names in the sports world,such as Michael Jordan. But in 1996 its silver image began to tarnish. It knew it was in trouble when an article on child labour in Pakistan appeared in Life magazine with a picture of a 12-year-old boy sewing a Nike soccer ball in a factory, and activists started showing up in front of Nike outlets holding posters with the boy's picture on it. Although child labour is illegal in Pakistan, the law is not enforced and child labour is widespread. The factory in question was not run by Nike, but by a subcontractor or supplier. Nonetheless,Nike was held responsible by many,especially in the US and Canada. One immediate result was a ,,Boycott Nike'' movement, which has continued to monitor and report on Nike's actions. Nor was the report from Pakistan an isolated incident for Nike.Also in 1996, CBS's 48 Hours reported on working conditions in Vietnam, featuring Nike and the abuses of workers who made some of Nike's prosucts. Since 1996, Nike has been charged by critics with engaging in a variety of unethical employment practices in countries that exercise little or no control over the conditions of labour or whose governments are corrupt and can be bought off. For Nike had and continues to have a reputation for producing its products in less developed countries, known for the cheapest labour and the laxest law enforcement, including China, Viet Nam, Bangladesh and Indonesia. At Nike's invitation, the Viet Nam Labour Watch conducted a six-month investigation and its report details discrepancies between what Nike told American customers and what the group itself uncovered. One significant item in the report is the statement that non-Nike shoe factories the group visited in Vietnam had better working conditions and paid haigher wages. In 1998 , Nike pledged to make sure its factories adhered to acceptable labour practices and agreed to let labour and human rights groups inspect its facilities. Yet its critics continued to track the company. In 2000, Victoria International Development Education Association (VIDEA) in Canada published a book of facts about Nike, which noted among other things that Nike, which paid its 80,000 Indonesian factory workers ten cents an hour,could double their wages at a cost of less than 20,000,000-the amount that Nike paid Michael Jordan for promoting its products. It paid $200 million to sponsor the Brazilian soccer team. VIDEA also claimed that the cost of making one pair of Nike running shoes was approximately $5.00, although they retail for more than $100 and for as much as $189. The figures by themselves, of course, do not present the whole picture. However, at least on the surface they suggest exploitation of labour and a terrible disparity between manufacturing and advertising expenditures. In 2001, Nike's CEO, Philip Knight ,claimed that the company's policy with respect to the employment of child labour was ,,the highest in the world: 18 for footwear manufacturing, 16 for apparel and equipment.'' Nonetheless, he acknowledged that there were instances in which the company used contract factories abroad, where the policies had been violated. With respect to the company's violations in Cambodia, violations reported by the BBC, Mr. Knight cited the fact that evidence of age could buy there for as little as $5 and that, following the charge, the company re-examined all employee records there. The reply did not satisfy critics. The athletic shoe company has been the centre of a controversy over its responsibility for the mistreatment of the workers who make its shoes. Nike does not actually manufacture any of the athletic shoes it sells. Instead,Nike designs its shoes in Seattle,and then pays companies in developing countries (China, Indonesia, India, etc.) to make the shoes...
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