The Guardian June 28, 2000


Protest against Nike slave labour conditions

The Nike store in George St, Sydney was closed last Saturday afternoon 
by demonstrators demanding fair treatment for Australian outworkers and 
Nike employees in developing nations.

The protest began with street theatre and speeches in front of the Olympic 
Store in Pitt St Mall. (Nike is an Official Sponsor of Sydney 2000). 

One hundred protesters then marched to George St to occupy the Nike shop, 
to bring to the attention of staff and shoppers Nike's appalling human 
rights record around the world.

"We are not here to threaten the employees of this store. We do hope that 
they become aware that nearby in Indonesia, their co-workers are being paid 
16 cents an hour and working a 72 hour week," said Karen Isles, one of the 
organisers. The protest was a joint effort of Fairwear, the campaign for an 
Australian Outworkers Code of Practice; CACTUS, (Campaign Against Corporate 
Tyranny in Unity and Solidarity); and the NUS (National Union of Students.) 

The demonstration remained peaceful despite a heavy police presence. After 
half an hour the demonstrators left the store and moved on to the Town Hall 
steps where they continued handing out leaflets to Saturday afternoon 
shoppers.

On June 6 this year, the Federal Court found Nike guilty of three breaches 
of the Clothing Trades Award. The company had not told the Australian 
Industrial Relations Commission that it outsourced its manufacturing to 
other companies (outsourcing is the usual way big companies use sweatshop 
labour) and had refused to tell the Commission who was making its products. 
Nike has also refused to sign the Homeworkers' Code of Practice in 
Australia, which sets out decent pay and working conditions for Australia's 
300 000 outworkers. The company denies that it uses outworkers, but still 
refuses to sign.

In a speech to the National Press Club in May 1998, Nike CEO Phillip Knight 
admitted  "the Nike product had become synonymous with slave wages, forced 
overtime, and arbitrary abuse". Despite pledging changes, workers who make 
Nike products  mainly Indonesian women, still suffer under slave labour 
conditions. For further information about Fairwear and it's campaign to 
help Australian and overseas garment workers contact Julia on (02) 9380 
9091.

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