With the truly vast sums of money surrounding the Olympic Games these days it’s no surprise to hear of numerous disputes involving anything and everything from the provision of soap for national teams to …. well, whatever.
Every four years reports of abuse proliferate and the up-coming 2012 Olympic Games, due to run July 27 – August 12 is pretty much running to course. We featured one such the other day. The sportswear giant adidas had its neck caught in the ringer for a litany of alleged abuses in making Team GB’s ‘official’ garments.
There were tales of excess hours, too much (free) overtime, and routine threats of dismissal if any of this got to the eyes and ears of inspectors reporting back to the main franchisee.
Most of these alleged abuses seemed leveled at sub-contractors, sub-sub-contractors and (probably) even sub-sub-sub contractors. At this late stage greater than usual pressure is being exerted from on-high. After all what is a pair of nylon socks, carrying the words ‘Official Team GB’ worth the day after the Games is over. Not a lot.
Most major brand manufacturers know full well the scope and scale of the problem, and have devoted considerable resources to overcome them. Call it ‘corporate responsibility’, or just vanilla-flavoured good business practice, but some issues fester oftentimes due to the fact that by the time you get down to a sub-sub-contractor, located close to nowhere you can find on a map, and host to an alphabety spagete of interlocking family names, quick resolution is not easy. All too easy for the brand to throw money at the problem, which is pocketed, and the heat turned up against a low-paid and largely ignorant workforce.
This is where the stories of harsh working conditions, ‘voluntary’ unpaid overtime, even physical beatings begin their journey.
So, OK, what else is new?
In listing the terms of abuse - not much. But here’s a somewhat unexpected twist. An interesting headline (from the Independent newspaper in the UK of April 16.)
GMB slams talks 'sham' as it calls on big retailers to make 'Olympic premium' payments.
The report went on, “More than one million shop and distribution workers face being ‘bullied’ by big retailers that extend Sunday opening hours during the London Olympics and Paralympics.
GMB is the UK’s largest labour union: the workers (their members) who it appears are about to get shafted are British. Yet this will do nothing to ‘protect’ them against unscrupulous business interests, as far as the GMB is concerned anyway.
The government has invited the GMB to talks over pay and working hours during the games. However, the union has called it "a sham consultation" that is taking place after the government had already decided to suspend Sunday trading laws for eight weeks this summer.
The GMB wants "Olympic premium" pay for those required to work longer, particularly in London. The union wants workers there compensated for the extra time it will take to get to and from their employer.
There are also claims that staff will be pressured into working longer shifts. The GMB is calling for a system that will ensure that anyone working additional hours during the Olympics will have done so on a voluntary basis.
Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary for retail, said: “We're concerned that they will be bullied into working and where's the fairness? Retailers will be making so much money and workers should share in that.”
There is anger that some industries have been compensated for the Olympic disruption while others, including lorry drivers and warehouse operatives, might get nothing. Tube (London Underground) drivers, for example, could earn up to £6,000 (USD 9,500) extra during the Games.
So, those getting screwed by the Olympic colossus are not necessarily the illiterate and unskilled who cannot reasonably expect to turn their meager skills to a higher earning level for the duration.
Looks like everyone gets screwed. The only variable is by how much.