Nike resumes hand-made football prodn in Pakistan

Nike, the official supplier of footballs to the English Premier League, is to resume making hand-stitched leather balls in Pakistan, six months after it stopped production there amid child-labour concerns. The company has signed a new contract with Silver Star, a leather processor based in Sialkot, after a tender process that Nike says was designed to promote a broader modernisation of the sector centred around the city in northern Punjab. Nike’s decision in November to end production at Saga, its former supplier in Sialkot, followed what Alan Marks, a company spokesman, said was “primarily a fundamental breach of trust” in its management over failures to remedy problems with labour conditions.

Nike was the factory’s main client, taking around 80 per cent of its production, and many of the estimated 3,000 workers at the factory have subsequently lost their jobs. Saga was producing 6 million of the 40 million leather footalls produced in Pakistan annually. "Unlike the global clothing business, where contracts can be moved relatively rapidly between factories and companies, the quality and scale of the leather industry in Sialkot is globally unique, leaving Nike with a significant shortfall in its supply of hand-stitched balls," Jonathan Birchall explained in the Financial Times.

The new contract requires the new supplier to use only registered full-time employees paid hourly wages to work on its premises, rather than piece work. It also stipulates that its workers be able to form or join trade unions. However, the initial contract is for a fifth of the volume of balls originally produced for Nike by Saga, although Nike says it will buy more as Silver Star’s capacity develops.