Indonesia. Yati, Kurbana, Puryati and Johanna all work making sportswear for FILA, Le Coq Sportif and other brands. Photo: Kelly Dent/OxfamAUS Photo: Kelly Dent/OxfamAUS

Oxfam supports workers’ rights

The global sportswear and garment market is very lucrative.

In the 2008 financial year, two of the biggest sportswear companies, Nike and adidas earned profits of US$1.88 billion and US$800million respectively.

So it seems that while the big wigs behind the big sportswear and garment brands are getting richer, the workers actually making the products are living in poverty.

They barely earn enough money to look after themselves and their families. Many are forced to work long hours, and there have been cases where sportswear workers have been given amphetamines so they can work through the night. And when workers try to join together to fight for their rights they often experience violence, threats or sacking for trying to improve their conditions.

Oxfam Australia is working, along with other international organisations, to persuade major companies to improve the rights and conditions of workers.

We are keeping a watchful eye on the big brands and encouraging them to do more to uphold workers’ rights.

Who we’re watching

  • Nike
  • Puma
  • Adidas
  • Australian clothing brands

We’re also watching many of the other big sportswear brands like ASICS, FILA, Kappa, Lotto, Mizuno, New Balance, Reebok, Speedo, Umbro and other lesser-known brands have their products made in the same factories as the big three.

What we’re doing

Supporting unions

  • We’re supporting workers to form into networks and unions where they can actively work together to uphold their rights.

Supporting women’s rights

  • Women make up approximately 80 per cent of the global workforce in the sportswear sector and are often subjected to greater difficulties than men, including sexual harassment and discrimination against women workers who become pregnant. We’re encouraging discussion in the unions and organisations on how to best support women’s rights and women’s. Read one woman’s account of life as a sportswear worker.


  • We’re lobbying brand representatives and publicly encouraging them to improve their labour practices.
  • We help mobilise national and international pressure on brands to improve their labour practices.
  • We encourage journalists to research and write about the working conditions of people who produce for big brands. For example in 2009, Pacific Brands (owner of Bonds) were found to be using a big Hong Kong manufacturer who had a poor record in terms of transparency on workers’ rights. Intense Australian media scrutiny has meant that the Hong Kong company is now talking about change. Write to Pacific Brands asking them to make sure that they respect workers’ rights.
  • Find out about our campaign achievements.


  • We support training for workers’ representatives, particularly women workers, to help them build their knowledge of their rights and their skills in campaigning to get those rights respected.
  • We provide educational resources for high school teachers, to help students learn about conditions facing the workers who make their sneakers.


Take action

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