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Nike Criticised over Vietnam sourcing ethics

Just Style |  By Michelle Russell | April, 29 2015 |  Share  | Source Article

Sporting giant Nike has been slammed by a human rights organisation for lacking "guts and morale" [sic] when it comes to sourcing in Vietnam.

The damning report by the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, likens Nike to "the canary in the coal mine", Charles Kernaghan writes, "pointing us to what unfettered 'free trade'
looks like, and what the world will look like under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)."

Vietnam’s textile sector has been growing rapidly, buoyed by potential opportunities from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, currently being negotiated between 12 countries
including the US and Canada.

The report, however, points out that in March, Nike's general counsel Hilary Krane emailed all staff asking them to lobby for the TPP, which she said would "reduce duties on footwear and
apparel among TPP countries, including Nike products manufactured in Vietnam for sale in the US". She added: "For Nike, rolling back these duties will allow us to grow in new markets,
reinvest in innovation, and offset costs of doing business."

Author Kernaghan believes Nike is after "even cheaper prices, and expanded access to Vietnamese workers with no legal rights, no voice and no way out".

"Is this how we want to live?" he questions. "If Nike had the guts and morals, Nike would demand that their products made in Vietnam be made by workers who are guaranteed their freedom of association, their right to organize and to collectively bargain."

The report offers some data on Nike's sourcing from Vietnam, which it claims is the company's largest production centre, where it employs around 330,000 workers
across 67 factories.

"Everyone knows that Nike shoes do not come cheap, selling in the US from $60 to $120 to well past $200," the report notes, adding that customs records show 16,423 Nike shipments from Vietnam in 2014, with an estimated value of US$491m. The average customs value of the sneakers was $5.27 per pair, it added.

"Meanwhile, Nike’s presence in Vietnam led to a continuation of wages as low as 27 cents an hour in 2012, with a slight increase to 48 to 69 cents an hour in January 2015, which is well below subsistence levels," Kernaghan says.

"Let’s be honest. For years, Nike has been exploiting the 330,000 Vietnamese workers, mostly young women, who are poorly paid and denied their most fundamental
rights," he continues.
"I am certain that many Nike workers are desperate for reform which will allow them to make a living wage and to freely organise unions to defend their interests."

Nike did not return a request for comment at the time of going to press.

Click here to view the full report.