NIKE’S INDONESIAN WORKERS ARE STILL PAID A POVERTY WAGE

January 31st, 2011

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Team Sweat:

After a day of settling in and enjoying some of the sights of Jakarta (national monument, national mosque, etc.), this evening I had my first meeting with a Nike factory worker during this trip. This particular worker is a long-time friend and colleague of mine in the struggle for justice for Nike’s workers in Indonesia. Our conversation was one of the most productive I have had in my more than 10 years of working on this issue.

We sat around a table at a hotel in Jakarta, ordered some coffee, tea, and french fries and got right down to brass tacks.

Workers at this particular Nike shoe factory are currently being paid Rp.1.243.000 ($138) per month for their basic wage. Along with their salary, they receive transportation to and from the factory by one of two means - there is a company bus provided for them or if they do not live on the bus route, they receive a transportation allowance of Rp.10.000 per day. They also receive one meal at the factory or if a meal is not provided, they receive a meal allowance of Rp.4.500 per day.

I also learned that workers are able to earn marginally more than the basic wage via the company promotion system. When a worker starts out at the factory, they are considered at “Level 1″ and are paid the basic wage of Rp.1.243.000. They are then assessed after three months. If they meet their production targets and their attendance is good, they will be promoted to Level 1A and for this they receive an additional Rp.16.000 per month in pay. They will be evaluated in another three months and if they pass, they are promoted to Level 1B and they receive an additional Rp.5.000. There are levels 1A to 1F and then they hit Level 2 that also goes from 2A through 2F.

Here is a breakdown of the entire promotion system.

Level 1 Rp.1.243.000
Level1A Rp.1.259.000
Level 1B Rp.1.264.000
Level 1C Rp.1269.000
Level 1D Rp.1.274.000
Level 1E Rp.1.279.000
Level 1F Rp.1.284.000
Level 2 Rp1.303.000

Level 2A Rp.1.308.000
Level 2B Rp.1.313.000
Level 2C Rp.1.318.000
Level 2D Rp1.323.000
Level 2E Rp.1.328.000
Level 2F Rp.1.333.000

So, the maximum salary that a operational level worker (sewing, cutting, assembling…) can make is Rp1.333.000 ($148) per month. To earn this salary, working in production groups of 250, cutting, sewing and assembling the shoes, workers produce 900 pairs of sneakers in 8 hours, that is 112.5 sneakers per hour or 1.875 sneakers per minute.

Let’s take a worker who is making the maximum (Level 2F) and see what they can afford for their toil on the production line.

They start the month with Rp1.333.000.

Rent = Rp.200.000
Transportation (beyond work-related travel) = Rp.600.000
Drinking Water = Rp.110.000

If you add up these three major expenses, they are Rp.910.000. Subtract the Rp.910.000 from Rp.1.333.000 and you are left with Rp.423.000. Divide that Rp.423.000 by 30 days and you have Rp.14.100 to spend each day on food, clothing, soap, toothpaste, education for your kids, and anything and everything else one might need to have to feel like a full human being.

Well…

One meal of rice, vegetables and a piece of chicken are going to cost you Rp.8.000 at the local food stall. A bottle of locally made iced-tea would cost you Rp.3.000. A snack of two bananas would cost you Rp.6.000.

You do the math.

Seriously, take a moment and do the math.

I asked my friend what a living wage would be for a Nike factory worker in the area where he and his fellow workers live. He said that for a worker that is single, it would be Rp,3.500.000 per month ($387) and for a worker supporting a family of four, it would be Rp.4.500.000 ($498).

I shared with him that to make this happen, to be able to pay Nike’s Indonesian workers a living wage, it would only be an additional $5 in production costs for a pair of sneakers. I told him that there are tens of thousands of consumers in the United States and around the world that will support workers if they make this demand of Nike. I also shared that it is imperative that we expose the lies that Nike tells the world about workers’ wages (Ex. Phil Knight stating that Nike factory workers are “absolutely” paid a living wage, “no, question about it.”)

He agreed, and tomorrow afternoon, after my morning panel discussion with the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club, he will go on camera and tell his story to the world. He has also agreed to set up meetings with workers from other factories to get their stories and the truth on the record. Stay tuned.

He did express to me that many of his fellow workers are still afraid to speak up and demand the justice they deserve. To let them know that there is support for them around the world, can you take a moment and write a comment to this note? Please tell Nike’s workers in Indonesia that you stand with them in solidarity!

Peace (and Justice), Jim Keady

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