So what’s the problem with Puma?
While a single Puma T-shirt can retail for $69.95 the worker who made the shirt will probably have earned around 60 cents an hour for the effort of making it, while enduring harsh conditions.
Hardly seems fair to anyone when expressed in those terms, does it?
Puma are not doing enough to ensure that workers’ rights are respected in their supplier factories. Puma states that its factory suppliers are expected to adhere to “social standards” but those suppliers can’t give workers decent wages and conditions unless Puma pays an adequate price for getting their stuff made, and allows a reasonable time for that production to take place.
Like other sports brands, high turnover of product within short time frames are still the norm for Puma, indicating that workers’ rights are a low priority.
Although Puma is accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia, this only applies to their Australian made goods which account for less than 1% of their overall product.
So what’s the solution?
Workers require a living wage, which is one that allows them to meet the basic needs of a family after working a full-time working week without overtime. Puma won’t commit to a living wage for its workers.
But it will commit to paying already high earning sport stars very generous sponsorships to endorse their products.
I’m writing to let you know that I think the treatment of workers making sporting goods in Asia is OFFSIDE! I consider it a pretty basic democratic right of all to join a union, to have collective workplace agreements. To have a fair wage as well as the right to fight for this fair wage. Frankly you’re far from allowing these rights to be upheld. This is a disgrace considering the profits made and the amount of advertising and promotional money that goes into your sports products. Don’t be in any doubt – your actions are seen by the world and will continue to be.
– Lisa Farrance, PhD Candidate (Applied Economics)
The right to form trade unions
Puma gear is made in countries and free trade zones where it is illegal or extremely difficult for workers to organise into unions. Without this united structure it is near impossible for individual workers to ask for improved conditions without fear of retribution.
Puma is starting to take some steps in the right direction. In June 2011 it became one of the first global brands to sign onto the Freedom of Association Protocol in Indonesia. The Protocol complements Indonesian law by setting out guidelines to ensure that brands and factories uphold freedom of association inside factories (the ability for workers to organise and collectively negotiate for improved conditions). Oxfam is now monitoring the implementation of the Protocol in Puma’s Indonesian supply chains. (See Talking with Puma)
According to Indonesian unions, the Protocol is already having a positive impact in a number of supplier factories, but Puma needs to do more to ensure all of its suppliers uphold its provisions.
A confidential complaints structure
When workers suffer sexual harassment, intimidation, violence or other human rights violations there is either no confidential complaints mechanism in place to assist them, or the existing system is woefully inadequate.
Ban short-term contracts
Puma moves its production where it likes when it likes and does not ban or discourage short-term contracts for its workers. So when it leaves an area those workers on short-term contracts are left with nothing.
Incentives for respecting workers’ rights
Puma should offer meaningful incentives to factories that respect workers’ rights, particularly their right to form trade unions. Without incentives and proper monitoring human rights abuses will continue.