Rag trade exploits outworkers
By Bridget Riggs
MELBOURNE — Fairwear, a community action group campaigning for outworkers' rights, and the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) have taken companies such as Adidas, Portmans, Australian Defence Apparel and Motto to the Federal Court over not complying with the industry award.
These companies have refused to sign a code of conduct which requires outworkers to be treated fairly. Outworkers — mainly women recently arrived in Australia — work at home and are paid wages as low as $2 per shirt, which are then sold for more than $40.
There are 100,000 outworkers in Victoria and at least 300,000 in Australia. In the past 18 months, the TCFUA has prosecuted 68 companies for approximately 300 breaches of the award. Once companies have been prosecuted the TCFUA and Fairwear will campaign for them to sign the code.
From July 1, award clauses protecting outworkers will be stripped under the provisions of the federal Workplace Relations Act. Protection of outworkers is not one of the 20 allowable matters in the act.
The TCFUA and Fairwear are asking consumers to refuse to buy products made by companies which refuse to sign the code of conduct.