Dezeen Magazine

Equidem FIFA merchandise allegations

Human rights group alleges "rampant exploitation" of female workers making FIFA merchandise

As the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup takes place in New Zealand and Australia, human rights organisation Equidem has alleged that female workers producing official FIFA merchandise are being exploited.

According to a report published by global human and labour rights group Equidem, women who work in the factories in Bangladesh that source official merchandise for FIFA tournaments are being overworked and underpaid.

Supervisors alleged to "verbally abuse" workers

In a blog post explaining its findings, the organisation said that a range of one-on-one interviews were conducted with garment workers who reportedly told Equidem they are suffering what the organisation characterises as "rampant exploitation" at the hands of their employers.

Equidem has alleged that the women labourers earn 12 per cent of the national living wage, are forced into working significant overtime and are frequently verbally abused.

"We have a daily target to reach," read one of a number of anonymous testimonies from factory workers published by the human rights organisation.

"The supervisor fixes our daily target. I make 60-80 pieces per hour. I can only go to the restroom after finishing my hourly target. When a lot of work piles up, they don't let us go anywhere. They verbally abuse us. I work for 10-12 hours a day at my sewing machine."

"Today, my supervisor told me to give 80 pieces per hour, but it was quite difficult to make 80 pieces. I made 60 pieces per hour. He shouted at me several times."

Women denied paid maternity leave

Equidem also alleges that these women workers are illegally denied paid maternity leave and worksite childcare. In Bangladesh, working mothers are entitled to four months of paid maternity leave by law.

Various women also reported being told that they would lose their jobs if they became pregnant within the first two years of employment, according to the human rights organisation.

Workers are also being threatened with pay cuts and often work overtime, the report states.

"Our research found that workers' shifts last for a minimum of nine hours a day, six days a week, but they often work overtime, with threats of their pay being cut if targets were not met," said Equidem.

"FIFA has already failed workers in spaces predominantly taken up by men, and women are, as ever, left even further behind," added the organisation.

FIFA has the "resource to address this at the systemic level"

The allegations come after FIFA pledged to found a human rights subcommittee following last year's men's World Cup.

"After the Men's World Cup this past year in Qatar, FIFA pledged to set up a human rights subcommittee that would assess the legacy of the 2022 tournament, although there has been no further update as to the status of that assessment, nor its learnings," Equidem CEO Mustafa Qadri said.

"Equidem urges FIFA to extend its expressed commitment to improving working conditions to women workers in their apparel supply chains."

While merchandise for the Women's World Cup currently taking place in New Zealand and Australia has not been specifically implicated in the allegations, Equidem referenced the tournament to put pressure on FIFA to improve the conditions of women workers.

"The FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 brings with it many positive improvements for its players, and it is crucial that FIFA extends that progress to addressing the harms its women workers experience," Quadri said.

"FIFA has the power, money, and resource to address this at the systemic level, and we will keep monitoring their global supply chains until it does."

Equidem said it will continue to speak to staff and has requested a comment from FIFA.

"These findings have been shared with FIFA, and while a comment has been requested from FIFA and companies in its garment supply chain, Equidem continues to monitor the Women's World Cup by liaising with staff on the ground," the organisation said.

Dezeen has contacted FIFA for comment but did not receive a response before publishing.

The allegations follow the controversies surrounding last year's men's World Cup tournament, which was held in Qatar.

Human rights group Amnesty International accused Qatar of exploitative labour conditions for migrant workers who built the tournament's stadiums, while sports brand Hummel designed a football kit for Denmark's men's team as a "protest against Qatar and its human rights record".

The photography is by Equidem.