From the TUC

Olympics block our workers’ human rights campaign

17 Aug 2012, By

Playfair 2012Thousands of campaigners calling on Jacques Rogge and the International Olympic Committee to respect workers’ human rights have had their emails blocked by the IOC this week.

As part of the Playfair 2012 campaign, we’ve been running an email action to the IOC, asking for action from the head of the Olympic movement to respect the human rights of workers involved in merchandising and construction at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Grassroots union campaign group Labourstart have helped us publicise the action, but then suddenly activists started contacting us to say their emails to the IOC were returning rejected. Our attempts to use different email addresses produced the same response – rejected.

It’s a shame that Jacques Rogge and the IOC don’t feel they need to listen to what so many trade unionists around the world are telling them, and we’ve contacted the President’s office to tell him this.

The Playfair 2012 campaign, coordinated by the TUC and supported by over 20 trade unions, did make some progress with London 2012, and it’s vital that the IOC and Rio 2016 build on this and learn lessons from London. As a result of Playfair 2012, London 2012 required contracted companies to meet standards in the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code- including payment of a living wage and no child labour. Games organisers also set up a complaints mechanism so that workers could report violations of their rights.

Prior to the release of our research “Toying with workers’ rights”, which documented labour right abuses in the production of Olympic goods, London 2012 signed a ground-breaking agreement with the TUC, committing it to take a number of steps to protect workers’ rights.  This resulted in the Games organisers making public the factory names and addresses for over 70% of their remaining suppliers, opening up the supply chain to public scrutiny, they provided some workers with information about their rights, and are now working with Playfair 2012 to develop a training pilot for workers about their rights.

Given the exploitative working conditions we’ve uncovered for workers in Olympic 2012 supplier factories, it’s not like the IOC and Rio 2016 can afford to sit back and do nothing. The risk of doing this is that even more workers will be exploited in the name of future Olympic Games, making a mockery of the Olympic values, fair play, respect and equality.

It’s great that thousands of trade unionists have taken our campaign action, and we want to make sure that their messages do actually get through to Jacques Rogge, despite the IOC’s block on them, so we’ve decided to collect everyone’s actions together into a petition, as evidence of international support for an exploitation-free Games.

From now until the end of the 2012 Paralympic games, we want to build this petition as big as we can. You can sign and share it at – Please take a moment to add your name too.

The IOC may think they can ignore trade union-backed campaigns, and Jacques Rogge may think he’s unaccountable, but the international Play Fair campaign will be continuing to follow them on to Sochi 2014 and Brazil 2016, and we’ll be doing all we can to ensure the gains for workers made at London 2012 don’t get lost for future Games.

Blocking our emails won’t make international outrage at workers’ rights abuses just go away.