War on Want Protests at London 2012 Sportswear Partner Adidas
War on Want handed out leaflets and played games outside Adidas on Oxford St, claiming that workers making clothes for the official sportswear partner of London 2012 get poverty wages are not allowed to form unions and have little or no job security.
The protesters started by handing out leaflets to shoppers in the busy street outside Adidas's main store in Oxford Street, watched by around 20 police. Many of those passing, took the leaflets and some, including several with Olympic passes, stopped to talk and express their disgust at the exploitation of foreign workers.
War on Want say:
'Around the world thousands of workers, mainly women, producing clothes for Adidas are not paid enough to live. There wages do not cover basic essentials like housing, food, education and healthcare.'
'With such low wages, workers have to work excessive hours just to scrape together enough to get by, sometimes beyond legal limits - up to 15 hours a day.'
'In many cases workers are told that if they try to organise trade unions to defend their rights, they face harassment or they will be fired.'
Since the protest was taking place on one of the busiest days of the London games, the protesters had come prepared to play some games in their protest. They started with badminton, using a banner as the net, in front of the main entrance to Adidas, but the mid-Scottish police on duty in Oxford St soon objected to that as they thought it might be dangerous to passers-by.
The protesters moved on a little, but the police still didn't like it, and they had to go into the quiet turning on the west side of the shop, just ten yards from busy Oxford St, to continue the game, which became rather more competitive than some at the Olympics.
After Badminton came a short hurdles event, with 2 runners making their way over the hurdles of 'POVERTY WAGES', 'UNION BUSTING' and '90 HOUR WEEK'. After a few preliminary runs in the side street they moved onto Oxford St, where the police let them play for a few minutes before telling them it had to stop. Adidas were unhappy about it as part of the pavement nearest the store - which formed half of the hurdles course - was their property.
I left them after more than an hour of protest outside Adidas still handing out leaflets inviting people to fill in a Freepost postcard to Herbert Hainer, the CEO of Adidas, care of War on Want, calling for Adidas to end the exploitation of workers.
Adidas sent me a statement, starting with the paragraph:
'adidas respects the right to peaceful protest but we strongly refute War on Want’s claims. We take all allegations about working conditions extremely seriously but it is very important to note that the independent women’s NGO Phulki, which visits our factories on a monthly basis, found absolutely no evidence to support the allegations being made.'
It continued by stating that 'The adidas Group is fully committed to protecting worker rights and to ensuring fair and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain.' and claimed that it had tried to contact War on Want to discuss the claims they are making - presumably including those of workers being paid 34 pence an hour - but had been unable to do so.
War on Want are not an organisation that makes claims without the evidence to back them, and in many other cases companies making claims such as those by Adidas have been shown to be allowing their partners to pull the wool over their eyes.
Phulki, named in their statement, is only active in Bangladesh, and the specific claims made by War on Want on their web site relate to wages and conditions in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and China.