2006: Euro 2008 Supplier Gets Red Card on Workers Rights
In June 2006, in the month before football players from 16 European nations kicked off the European Cup, 52 dismissed workers in Turkey learned the hard way about the shady underside of European championship soccer. They worked for the Mink Tekstil (MT) factory in Konya, which produces Euro 2008 logo merchandise.
In June 2006, some 90% of MT’s workforce joined the textile trade union TEKSIF. Although TEKSIF was granted bargaining rights at the factory, management refused to negotiate with the union and instead launched an anti-union campaign, forcing workers to resign from the union under threats of dismissal, pay cuts, and transfers to other locations.
The pressure led eight union members to resign from the union. Dozens of other union members who refused to resign were dismissed. In this context, TEKSIF lost its majority and hence its bargaining rights, in violation of both national law and international labour standards.
In June and July 2006, TEKSIF filed court cases on behalf of the 52 workers, arguing that they had been dismissed because of their union membership and demanded their reinstatement. Following a lengthy legal process, all 52 cases went through the Labour Courts, which confirmed their claims and ordered their reinstatement except in three cases in which the workers were entitled to compensation but lacked the six months of seniority required for reinstatement. The High Court of Appeal later upheld the reinstatement decision. However, to date, MT still refuses to reinstate the workers.
In order to sell UEFA logo goods, companies need to acquire an official licence from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). Warner Brothers Consumer Products was commissioned by UEFA to issue licenses. The home textile product licenses were granted to IPM, which is owned by Austrian Akhim Türesin. In a 25 April interview in the Austrian newspaper, the Kurier, Türesin stated that his suppliers all comply with international and national labour standards, and that working conditions were audited by unannounced inspection teams.
The CCC protested against labour rights violations at MT during the summer 2008 European Cup.
CCC and TEKSIF’s investigations revealed that MT was indeed producing Euro 2008 logo products for UEFA and IPM.
Meanwhile, hundreds of European activists joined the protests and sent urgent appeals to demand reinstatement of the 52 workers. Both UEFA and IPM also received appeals since they were responsible for monitoring international labour standards within their supply chains. The case received extensive press coverage throughout Europe just ahead of the Euro 2008 opening ceremonies.
Both UEFA and IPM denied any responsibility but issued contradicting statements. IPM’s owner Türesin eventually claimed that it had only placed preliminary sample orders but decided not to source from MT.
The CCC, however, found evidence in a Turkish financial newspaper that MT had indeed received Euro 2008 blanket orders from IPM to the tune of 600,000 Euro 2008 blankets proving that it was indeed producing Euro 2008 goods for IPM. But when IPM was confronted with the evidence, IPM claimed that MT was producing the goods without the necessary licences. IPM claimed that MT was pirating the products. However, neither UEFA nor IPM could substantiate this claim.
In response, the CCC urged IPM and Türesin to stop denying their responsibility for the factory workers and insisted that IPM ensure (1) that all dismissed employees be reinstated with full back pay and (2) guarantee the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining.
Although a 2008 High Court ordered reinstatement of 49 of the workers and compensation for three others, many had already found employment at another factory.
IPM refused to provide its list of suppliers and any documentation that proved it had only placed sample orders. Their press statements were riddled with contradictions and instead of launching an investigation and making an effort to protect the rights of the workers, IPM threatened to sue the CCC. By the end of the UEFA 2008 championship, IPM had broken off all contact with the CCC.
The CCC has no access to verifiable information about current working conditions in the factory. However, the CCC continues to monitor the manufacture of UEFA products and will continue to investigate the working conditions at IPM suppliers and inform the public when companies fail to remedy violations of workers’ rights.