The FIFA World Cup is an international sporting event which stirs the passion of millions of people around the world once every 4 years. Thousands of children are losing their precious childhood, stitching footballs that may be used for such sporting events. The World Cup Campaign 2002 demanded that FIFA make the World Cup and the sport of football, fair in its labour practice and free of child labour. Their promise to make all FIFA licensed products fair must be kept with a transparent monitoring system in place.
About World Cup Campaign 2002
The FIFA World Cup is an international sporting event which stirs the passion of millions of people around the world once every 4 years. However, in the shadows of this festivity, thousands of children are losing their precious childhood, stitching footballs that may be used for such sporting events. No chance to go to school or to play, they are denied the opportunity of growing up dreaming of a future without stitching. Instead, they work day and night stitching the dreams of others.
Thousands of adults are also exploited as cheap labour to produce sporting goods used in official matches and merchandise sold in stores around the world. While they are paid much less than the minimum wage, it is inevitable that their children are required to start working alongside them at early age in order to support the family.
Exactly one year away from the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and Korea, the World Cup Campaign 2002 was kicked off with a 14 year-old former football stitcher from India, appealing to the world to help her friends be able to go to school and play instead of stitching footballs.
The World Cup Campaign 2002 demanded that FIFA make the World Cup and the sport of football, fair in its labour practice and free of child labour. Their promise to make all FIFA licensed products fair must be kept with a transparent monitoring system in place.
However, making football a fair game is not solely the responsibility of one organization. All 250 million football players, 2 billion football fans, and the rest of the world must come together to bring out the best in the game!
Footballs are normally hand-stitched. This is a hazardous job, especially for children. Most people develop health problems like chronic joint and back pains and deformed fingers. Apart from that, wages are incredibly low, not to mention children are deprived an education and a childhood.
The use of child labour and unfair labour practice in the sporting goods industry has been addressed by some NGOs and media in the past. Because of these efforts, in 1996, FIFA, the organizing body of international football matches developed a set of regulations called the Code of Labour Practice. This Code prohibits the use of child labour, bonded or forced, and promotes fair wages for adults. These regulations apply to all companies, large and small that are involved in the production of FIFA goods. After negotiations with ICFTU, a somewhat diluted version of this code became part of the binding contract between FIFA and the company that use their license.
However, these regulations have been broken many times. A report by the Pakistan labour union tells us that children are not working in established stitching centers but rather stitching at home. In the year 2000, the India Committee of the Netherlands reported that child labour was used in the production of the official footballs used in the Euro 2000. Global March's own activists also report the use of child labour in India and Pakistan despite denial from sporting goods industries.
Fair Play' In The 2002 FIFA World Cup
A Position Paper of The Global March Against Child Labour
Football and other sports are based on the principle of 'fair play', even though this principle is not always honoured. Many young people see football players and other sport stars as important role models. Therefore, if there is one industry from which 'fair play' should be expected, it certainly is the sporting goods industry.
The use of child labour and poor working conditions for adults making sporting goods are undoubtedly far from fair. Unfortunately they can be found on a large scale in the football industry and in the production of sporting clothes and shoes.
The next FIFA World Cup Football Championship, to be held in Korea and Japan in June 2002, is the perfect occasion to make sure that all the promises made by the sporting goods industry over the past years about not using child labour and ensuring fair labour conditions, will finally become a reality.
Child Labour and Unfair Working Conditions Exposed
The issue of child labour in the sporting goods industry, in particular the football industry, has attracted a lot of attention during the last few years. First child labour in Pakistan's football industry was highlighted and soon afterwards child labour in India’s sporting goods industry came into the limelight. With regard to China there have been allegations about the use of prison labour in which political prisoners allegedly have been forced to produce footballs for Adidas for as long as 15 hours at a stretch. It is also of great concern that little is known about the working conditions for the fast growing production of low-priced sporting goods exported by China.
In Pakistan and then in India, a programme was started to eliminate child labour from this industry, rehabilitate the children who have been affected and prevent new children from entering the workforce at a young age. Schooling facilities for a number of children have been provided. The Fédération Internationale de Football Associale (FIFA), the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI), and also UNICEF and NGOs such as Save the Children Fund have supported these programmes.
Although certainly in Pakistan progress has been made, the problem of child labour in the worldwide sporting goods industry is far from solved. It is equally sad that the adults making footballs and other sporting goods hardly earn enough to support their family and children. A family living in poverty is generally more inclined to send their children to work instead of school, thereby repeating the vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy.
FIFA and the sporting goods companies whose products are licensed by FIFA, committed themselves in 1998 by contract to eliminate child labour and implement fair and decent working conditions for adults. These conditions include, for example, receiving at least the local minimum wage, no discrimination at work and the right to join trade unions. An earlier agreement between FIFA and international trade unions which included a wage sufficient to meet the basic needs of workers and their families has never been signed and implemented because of resistance from the sporting goods industry.
In 1999 and 2000 however, detailed reports were published on Pakistan and India which clearly show that there are still many children stitching footballs in both countries. Wages are often far below the official minimum and also most other labour provisions in the contracts between FIFA and sporting goods companies are systematically violated.
The Global March Against Child Labour thus demands that FIFA:
- ensures that no children are employed in the football industry and other FIFA-licensed goods production and that the labour rights in the contract between FIFA and sporting goods companies are fully implemented before the start of the 2002 FIFA World Cup;
- improves the present contract between FIFA and the sporting goods companies up to the level of the original agreement between FIFA and the international trade unions, including the payment of 'living wages' to the workers;
- ensures that an independent inspection system, involving trade unions and NGOs, is in place in all the countries from which FIFA-licensed goods are sourced by sporting goods companies.
- The Global March demands that all sporting goods companies:
- fully implement their contractual agreement with FIFA on child labour and labour rights and pay a 'living wage' to the workers before the start of the 2002 FIFA World Cup;
- disclose all the production sites of sporting goods and publish independently verified reports that their goods are produced in compliance with the FIFA Contract with the provision of living wages;
- implement a Code of Labour Practice of which the quality is not less than the agreement reached in 1996 between FIFA and the international trade unions.
The Global March urges all national football associations and football clubs to:
- include the original agreement between FIFA and the international trade unions in their contracts with sponsors and suppliers of sporting goods and to make sure that this agreement is independently monitored and verified;
- request FIFA, WFSGI and sporting goods companies to make sure that no child labour is employed in the football industry, that former working children are properly rehabilitated and that the wages and working conditions of adults meet the standards set by the agreement between FIFA and the international trade unions.
The Global March urges the ILO to:
- develop a credible and independent inspection system involving trade unions and NGOs in order to enforce and monitor the ILO labour standards in the sporting goods industry worldwide.
- based on the above inspection system, develop ILO models of cooperation between public and private sectors to build effective methods of labour inspection, and assessment and accreditation mechanism of private auditing systems.
The Global March urges UNICEF to:
- develop and support the implementation of a model programme to rehabilitate and to educate children who have been, or are to be prevented from, working in the sporting goods industry as well as for other industries worldwide.
The Global March urges all its partners to :
- work towards the elimination of child labour and unfair working conditions in the sporting goods industry and to build reaffirmed and new relationships between NGOs, businesses and trade unions at the national and local level to reach this goal.