Anti-exploitation campaigners today demonstrated outside Olympic sponsor Adidas’s flagship London store over claims the sportswear giant is “raking in profits” at its workers’ expense.
Members of the War on Want charity gathered in Oxford Street where they held a hurdle race as part of its “Exploitation Games” protest.
The group said it wanted to highlight the “stark contrast” between Adidas’s reported £100m sales of Olympic merchandise and the plight of workers in places like Indonesia, which it says are paid as little as 34p an hour and working up to 90 hours per week.
Murray Worthy, of War on Want, said: “These Exploitation Games expose the ugly truth behind Adidas’s failure to uphold the Olympics values of fair play and respect.
“Adidas must stop raking in profits at workers’ expense and instead ensure their pay reflects the vital part they play in its success.”
Demonstrations also took place in Manchester and Exeter, according to the group, who, in the run up to today’s protests, said it hoped to target more than a dozen stores around the UK.
A spokesperson for War on Want said the Oxford Street protest included activists “confronting the hurdles faced by Adidas workers, such as poverty wages and up to 90-hour weeks, and, after the Olympics cheats scandal, badminton to symbolise alleged unfair play by Adidas”.
The group claimed workers in the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and China, receive far less than a living wage and workers in Cambodia earn £10-a-week basic pay.
Adidas, however, hit back at War on Want’s claims saying it was “fully committed” to protecting worker rights and accused the charity of “pursuing a strategy of disruption” saying its requests to meet with the group had so far been met with a wall of silence.
A spokesman said: “Adidas respects the right to peaceful protest but we strongly refute War on Want’s claims.
“We take all allegations about working conditions extremely seriously but it is very important to note that the independent women’s NGO Phulki, which visits our factories on a monthly basis, found absolutely no evidence to support the allegations being made.
“The Adidas Group is fully committed to protecting worker rights and to ensuring fair and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain.
“As part of that commitment, we recently contacted War on Want on two separate occasions to discuss the claims made in their last report but we are yet to hear back from them on this.
“We have enjoyed an open and constructive dialogue with many NGOs for years, but it seems War on Want are more interested in pursuing a strategy of disruption rather than engaging with us to talk about these issues.
“Adidas is confident we are adhering to and, in fact, exceeding the high standards set by Locog and we would urge War on Want to deal in fact rather than fiction.”
In July the sports giant admitted that some people working in third-world countries for Adidas – which produced the official Team GB outfit – are paid less than 68p an hour.
Following the revelation, The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Locog) launched an investigation after workers making London 2012 “fanware” at Adidas’s Shen Zhou factory in Cambodia told the Daily Telegraph they earned a basic salary of 61 US dollars (£40) a month for working eight hours a day, six days a week, plus a five US dollar (£3) allowance for healthcare.
Campaigners said the treatment of workers amounted to a breach of an agreement that Olympic merchandisers must pay workers a sustainable living wage, while a spokesman for Locog said it took the claims “very seriously”.
Adidas said that workers at the factory made an average of 130 US dollars (£83) a month and would receive a wage increase from September.
An Adidas spokesman said at the time: “We are confident we are adhering to and, in fact, exceeding the high standards set by Locog.”