No: 1

Autumn 2001

Slow train
for garment workers

For more info on the
Fair Wear Campaign:
check out the website
or phone 02 9793 9150
The most highly exploited workforce in Australia, home workers in the garment manufacturing industry, have achieved a significant victory in NSW with the State Government finally capitulating after a four-year campaign by workers and activists.

In what the Fair Wear Campaign has called "a step in the right direction", Premier Bob Carr announced a three year, $4 million plan to improve conditions for workers and provide them protection from being "ripped off".

Under the plan, the NSW Government will:

* Ensure retailers and manufacturers sign up to industry codes of conduct within 12 months;

* Set up an Ethical Clothing Trades Council, comprising union, community and industry representatives to report publicly on retail and supplier compliance;

* Introduce laws ensuring outworkers are able to recover unpaid remuneration from fashion houses and manufacturers;

* Tighten provisions that deem outworkers as employees (rather than contractors) for the purposes of the Industrial Relations Act;

"Fair Wear is pleased there is to be legislation ...but disappointed that retailers are being given a further 12 months to participate in voluntary measures before legislative requirements are imposed", said a Fair Wear statement in response to the Premier's announcement.

"We've already been waiting for over four years for retailers to take active steps under voluntary agreements and this has led to nothing."

Fair Wear says that with 12 months to comply, they do not expect retailers to take action to improve conditions for their outworkers for another 11 months.

There are an estimated 300,000 outworkers in the Australian clothing industry, a ratio of 14 people working at home for every 1 factory worker. They are overwhelmingly women, often immigrants with poor English language skills.

Pay rates in the industry are often as low as $2 an hour and even this miserable amount is often paid late or not at all. Many suffer from work related injuries but are not able to claim compensation because they are regarded as contractors.

Fair Wear is encouraging consumers to write postcards and letters to retailers letting them know that they want to see the "no sweat shop" label in stores.

They are currently targeting David Jones, Big W, and Sussan, stores that have as yet, refused to endorse the label.

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