Indonesia pact strengthens sportswear worker rights

An agreement regarding trade union rights in factories in Indonesia has been hailed as "historic" by the International Trade Union Confederation, the representative body of more than 175 million workers in 151 countries and territories.

The pact was signed by Indonesian textile, clothing and footwear unions, major supplier factories and the major sportswear brands, including Adidas, Nike and Puma. The Indonesian trade unions which negotiated and signed the protocol were SPN, GSBI, Garteks, KASBI and F.PTSPK.

Muji Handoyo, general director of the Indonesian government's Labour Inspection, expressed his appreciation of the efforts of the parties to ensure that freedom of association is respected.

According to a statement issued by the trade union organisations, workers in Indonesia and in other countries producing sportswear are frequently prevented from organising at supplier factories and from carrying out union activities. Recent research covering 18 factories in Indonesia found that all had taken anti-union measures.

“This protocol is important because our law does not cover technical implementation of freedom of association. It also ensures brands take responsibility to ensure respect for union rights,” said Lilis Mahmudah, head of program for SPN. “Our members have been waiting for this agreement to be concluded. It will help us in our bargaining efforts,” added Emelia Yanti, general secretary of GSBI.

The agreement was made possible by the Play Fair campaign, which since 2004 has been campaigning for global sportswear brands to take concrete steps to improve conditions in their supply chains. The campaign was represented at the signing by Oxfam Australia, the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation and the Clean Clothes Campaign.

“The signing of this freedom of association protocol is an important first step in improving the situation for the hundreds of thousands of sportswear workers facing low wages and poor conditions,” said Jeroen Merk of the CCC. “The real test, however, will be in its implementation,” said Ashling Seely of the ITGLWF.