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Letter from NLC to PUMA

August 5, 2004  |  Share

Letter from the National Labor Committee to Mr. Jochen Zeitz, Chairman and CEO of PUMA in response to the report written jointly by the National Labor Committee and China Labor Watch about Chinese workers making PUMA sneakers. 


540 West 48th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10036
Tel: 212-242-3002
Fax: 212-242-3821

August 5, 2004

Mr. Jochen Zeitz
Chairman and CEO
Wurzburgerstrasse 13
91074 Hezogenaurach, GERMANY

Dear Mr. Zeitz:

I write seeking your immediate help in addressing serious concerns regarding PUMA's
production in China at Pou Yuen Plants F and D in Dongguan. There exists a definite climate of fear and repression in these factories. Every worker knows that if they dare to speak the truth publicly they would be immediately fired. For merely suggesting factory improvements, the workers feel they would be immediately fired. Supervisors routinely humiliate the workers, shouting and yelling at them. Overtime work is mandatory, the hours grueling, days off are rare,
and the wages are below subsistence levels.

I am hopeful, however, that with PUMA's serious intervention, conditions can quickly improve. I must state at the very outset that no one wants PUMA to pull its production from these factories. In fact, that would be the worst thing PUMA could do, since once again the workers would be being punished for daring to speak the truth. The workers do not want PUMA to pull out. They desperately need these jobs. They have already proven how hard they are willing to work, but they also want to be treated like human beings, with respect for their basic rights. We want PUMA to keep its work in these factories while at the same time working with your contractor to clean up these plants and to guarantee that the fundamental rights of the workers
will finally be respected.

There are several things PUMA can do immediately. Steps must be taken to end the atmosphere of fear and repression. Supervisors must stop verbally abusing and humiliating workers. All overtime should be voluntary and paid correctly. Currently the workers are kept from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. or midnight. Also, this month the workers were informed that they would be receiving only 80 percent of their wage as punishment for failing to reach their production goals.  Dormitory conditions should improve, especially addressing the need for hot water. Factory cafeteria food is unpalatable, and must be improved.

NLC Letter to PUMA, August 2, page 2

As it stands now, workers receive just one, to a maximum of three days off in a month, and just ten holidays off all year, which does not allow them enough time to visit their families in the countryside. Some workers have no been home in three, four, and even seven years.

But there are two larger and even more serious issues, having to do with wages, which are below subsistence levels, and the lack of Freedom of Association. Currently, the base wage at the factory is just 31 cents an hour.

We would like to challenge PUMA to do something quite remarkable, though easily affordable. We ask that PUMA increase the base wage of the workers in China making PUMA sneakers by just twenty cents an hour. This tiny increase would allow the workers in China to climb out of misery and at least into poverty, and would have an enormous positive impact on the lives of all these workers.

A twenty-cent-an-hour wage increase would add just 54 cents to the total cost to make the sneaker. This pales in comparison to PUMA's gross profit of $34.09 on every pair of sneakers made in China. Indeed, currently PUMA is netting a very healthy profit of $12.24 an hour from every production worker in China making PUMA goods.

If the 54-cent increase is too much for PUMA to handle alone, concerned consumers — I am sure — would be more than anxious to split the difference with you, with each of us paying 27 cents more per pair of sneakers.

This is a very serious, but readily doable, proposal. If PUMA does this, PUMA will stand alone, far ahead of all other companies, who will then have to follow your lead. I believe PUMA would receive enormous recognition and support around the world for taking this step, vastly increasing your base of loyal consumers.

The fundamental internationally recognized human right of Freedom of Association is clearly being violated at PUMA's contractors' plants in China. This too is a serious and complex issue, but one that can and must be dealt with wisely. China Labor Watch and other worker rights organizations on the ground in China will gladly work with PUMA to achieve this end over time and in a reasonable manner. Popular education meetings with the Pou Yuen workers would be a necessary first step, enabling the workers to learn their legal rights and gain a growing confidence to exercise them.

The National Labor Committee and China Labor Watch are ready to help in any way we can. I thank you for your serious attention to this critical human rights issue and look forward to a dialogue with you.


Charles Kernaghan

cc: Jay Piccola, President and General Manager, PUMA North America

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