The Guardian 8 March, 2006
Sweatshop workers hit the catwalk
Melbourne’s "fashionistas" discovered sweatshops were not acceptable when scores of textile workers rallied outside a hotel where 600 fashion industry figures were having breakfast. The Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) says about 300,000 outworkers were employed in Australia’s textile industry, and were paid as little as $3 per hour, in a breach of the Clothing Trades Award.
The union is launching a Federal Court action against 27 companies it accused of exploitation. TCFUA State Secretary Michele O’Neil alleged the clothes companies were breaching laws designed to prevent this exploitation of outworkers, garment makers who work in their homes.
"We want to bring attention to the industry that it needs to clean up its act", she said. "I think most shoppers and consumers would be really shocked to find that in 2006 we still have this problem in Australia.
"That we have workers who work long hours, day and night, for garments that sell for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars and the worker gets $10-$20 for that garment."
The factories and companies which produce clothes for the fashion houses are accused of having gaps in their records. Ms O’Neil said the records were supposed to show who the companies were sub-contracting work to and what the workers were paid.
In 2004, the Federal Court handed textile company Lotus Cove a $20,000 fine for breaches of the Workplace Relations Act relating to outworkers.