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The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) expects  to generate at least GBP 86 million from sales of “London 2012” merchandise. Among the merchandise, the majority of products feature the official mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, and the Team GB mascot, Pride-the-Lion.

In 2008, LOCOG issued sustainable and ethical sourcing codes with the aim of ensuring that  all products associated with LOCOG are produced under internationally acceptable social standards. In terms of labour practices, the codes refer to the provisions of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code which spells out that workers should receive at least the minimum wage as specified in their national legal standards and have a contract defining their terms of employment and payment. The ETI Code also states that punitive fines are prohibited and that working hours should not be excessive. Regrettably, LOCOG has not issued any lists detailing the firms that supply goods to the licensees. Moreover, there have been no reports on the levels of compliance with the code by these suppliers. Consumers are kept in the dark about the conditions in which the goods are produced.

In summer and autumn 2011, Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) investigated the Yancheng Rainbow Arts and Crafts Company, a manufacturer of Wenlock, Mandeville and Pride-the-Lion goods in Dafeng City, China. The factory is also a supplier to Disney. This investigation revealed numerous violations of workers’ rights violations in the Rainbow Factory, which puts it far outside the promises of the code. The following are the major labour rights violations found in the factory:

– Workers are told to tell lies to the auditors during factory inspections.

– No labour contract is given to workers.

– The factory does not pay a basic salary to workers.

– Workers do not know about the piece rate before production.

– Overtime premium is not paid in accordance with legal standards.

– Sewing workers have muscle fatigue, due to the repetitive work, and cloth-cutting workers have to stand during the whole day.

– No paid maternity leave for workers.

“The quality control of Olympic products is demanding. It is very difficult to produce the mascots. There cannot be any flaws. Although they are Olympic products, the unit price is lower than for other products. I am not proud of making the mascots at all,” explained one sewing worker. According to the workers, the Olympic products were to be sent to the British companies, Golden Bear and John Lewis. It is disappointing that the client puts so much effort into quality control of the products but turns a blind eye to the labour rights violations. The Rainbow Factory is a primary labour rights violator and Golden Bear and John Lewis failed to examine the working conditions at their supplier. Nevertheless, LOCOG cannot evade its responsibility for enforcing its own sustainable and ethical sourcing codes.

SACOM’s Demands to LOCOG and IOC

The rampant labour rights violations in the Rainbow Factory demonstrate that, at present, the sustainable and ethical sourcing codes are nothing more than pieces of paper. In line with its proclaimed goal of respecting labour rights, LOCOG should:

– publish the full list of suppliers to its license holders;

– conduct selective investigations at the licensees’ suppliers to examine the level of compliance and publicise the reports; and

– work with the licensees to launch remedial actions in any factory where rights violations are found.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) should establish a policy to prevent violation of labour rights at the suppliers of Olympic products. On top of the demands for disclosure of supplier lists and selective audits at the licensee suppliers, SACOM further demands that the IOC should:

– adopt a code of conduct for the suppliers which should include terms like living wages, freedom of association and the right to remedy; and

– require the licensees to ensure that every worker, at every supplier, receives a copy of this code.

The full report is available at here.