||Issue No. 137||24 May 2002|
An Aussie Icon
Interview: Just Done It?
Tribute: Lest We Forget
History: Solidarity Forever
Technology: Unblocking the Superhighway
International: Gloves Off
Unions: Out Of Work
Review: Strange Business
Poetry: The Lawyer's Lament
Satire: Government Mourns Loss Of Last Anzac
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Your Tools Page is Down
Big Dave Foster
Give Us a Click!
Will the Real Mark Latham Please Stand Up?
The Last Survivor
Not Hate Mail
Retailers in Outworker Spotlight
That was the key point to emerge from this week’s Behind The Label launch by NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca.
While the Minister pitched a theme of co-operation between Government, unions, manufacturers and retailers, key players argue his $4 million program will stand or fall on the co-operation of the all-powerful retail sector.
Central to Della Bosca's program is a seven-person Ethical Clothing Trades Council to be chaired by former State Minister, Joe Riordan. It will report next February on whether self-regulation is effective or Government needs to enforce outworker protections through additional legislation.
Two council members, Fair Wear's Julia Murray and the TCFUA's Igor Nossar, told Workers OnLine retailers actions were the key to a better deal for outworkers.
Nossar's organisation is pressing retailers to pick up on the Target Code, under which the national chain provides information that enables unions to track suppliers through an often tortuous contracting chain.
The Government has already recognised the importance of such a mechanism by legislating for outworkers to be paid under the Clothing Industry Award, and to be able to seek redress from "apparent" employers.
Essentially, if immediate contractors do a runner they can claim from the retailer, manufacturer or design house that let the contract.
Nossar says the Ethical Clothing Trades Council will monitor retailers to ensure, at the very least, they don't undercut ethical operators, such as Target.
"We expect the Target deed will become the minimum standard for the retail sector," Nossar added. "Retailers are vital because they have an iron grip on the industry."
Fair Wear has been working on a national code since 1996 but, nationwide, only four labels - Beare & Ley, Qualitops, Australian Defence Apparel and Hunter Gatherers - have signed on.
Murray says only the big retailers have the muscle to enforce compliance.
"In February we will be looking at the effectiveness of self-regulation. That is the time we expect the (Fair Wear) code to become mandatory for the industry," she said.
Retailers concede the Della Bosca initiative has teeth.
Australian Retailers Association policy director, Stan Moore, says his organisation is discussing the union's demand to broaden the Target Code.
"If Government isn't satisfied with developments it is going to go down the regulation road," he admitted. "Our preference is to have a voluntary code but this is a carrot and stick situation."
There are an estimated 300,000 clothing outworkers in Australia, many earning between $2 and $5 an hour in a deregulated system.
Della Bosca said Behind The Label aimed to provide them with direct assistance, while providing incentives and assistance to the industry.
"In time, it will give the community a chance to show their support by choosing ethically made clothing," he said.
Key elements of the Behind The Label strategy include:
- the establishment of an Ethical Clothing Trades Council, including TCFUA, Labor Council, Fair Wear, industry and retail representatives, to monitor developments and advise Government.
- outworkers deemed to be employees and entitled to provisions of the Clothing Industry Award
- outworkers able to recover wages from fashion houses, manufacturers or retailers further up the contracting chain
- these "apparent employers" required to keep full and accurate records of contracting arrangements
- the appointment of additional bilingual inspectors and advisers to the DIR's multi-lingual Clothing Industry Unit
- specialist advisers to help employers with compliance
- enhanced training programs to improve the industry's skill base
- promotion of the Homeworkers Code of Practice
- $4 million earmarked for the program over the next three years
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|