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World Cup gets a yellow card on worker rights

June 7, 2010

With the FIFA World Cup in South Africa just days away, the soccer world's leading organization is being asked to take a closer look at the dismal realities faced by soccer ball stitchers. A new report, "Missed the Goal for Workers: the Reality of Soccer Ball Stitchers," released by US-based NGO International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), reveals that workers stitching soccer balls in Pakistan, India, China and Thailand continue to experience alarming labour rights violations, including child labour, non-payment of the minimum wage and extensive use of temporary labourers.

The new report highlights the following worker rights abuses:

  • More than half of the workers surveyed in Pakistan reported that they did not make the legal minimum wage;
  • At one Pakistani manufacturer, every stitching centre and home-based worker interviewed reported they were hired as temporary workers, without access to healthcare or social security;
  • Female home-based workers sewing for the same manufacturer were paid the least, and women who became pregnant faced the possibility of losing their jobs permanently;
  • In one Chinese factory, workers were found to work up to 21 hours a day during high seasons, without a single day off in an entire month;
  • Indian stitching centres were described as "pathetic," often lacking proper drinking water, medical care facilities, and even toilets; and
  • Child labour was reported by workers producing for three different manufacturers in Pakistan.

Two years ago MSN and the Play Fair Alliance published research on abusive conditions endured by workers producing soccer balls in China, India and Thailand. Workers interviewed for that study also reported wages below the legal minimum, despite working 12-13 hours a day. Home-based workers in India reported completing two to four balls a day and receiving piece rates as low as US$0.35 per ball.

That so little has improved in two years is inexcusable.

MSN is supporting the ILRF in calling on the soccer ball industry to take immediate action to address the endemic problems of extremely low wages and the exploitation of temporary workers.  We are urging the industry to improve conditions for the workers who produce the balls at the centre of the 2010 World Cup. You can support the appeal by signing the action alert on the ILRF web page.


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