||Issue No. 144||12 July 2002|
The Lotto Economy
Interview: Capital in Crisis
Industrial: No Sweat
Bad Boss: Super Spam
History: Living Treasures
International: Axis of Evil
Solidarity: Pride of Place
Technology: The Art of Cyber-Unionism
Poetry: The Masochism Tango
Satire: Foxtel-Optus Merger 'Anti-Repetitive'
Review: Bob Carr's Thoughtlines
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Sweat Shops – Coming To A Street Near You
None of those councils, all hosts to clothing industry sweatshops, bothered to attend a meeting organised by Local Government minister Harry Woods this week, to discuss their responsibilities under new factory registration regulations.
TCFUA official David Tritton said his organisation was "bitterly disappointed" that only three Sydney's councils - Auburn, Fairfield and Marrickville. - showed up for the information session.
"The new regulations mean sweatshops and outworkers have to register as factories," he explained. "It is then up to councils whether they allow them to continue operating out of residential addresses or push them back into industrial zones.
"We are primarily concerned with worker welfare but councils have wider responsibilities. These factories are a residents' issue and a public liability issue.
"Some of them operate all hours. What happens if one catches fire and damages adjoining properties or, worse still, injures people. Where are these councils going to hide then?"
In the last three years clothing factories, employing people in often-unsafe conditions, have gone residential, springing up across suburbs from South Sydney to Penrith.
The TCFUA has gone to the trouble and expense of preparing a graphic 25-minute video, highlighting the reality of what is happening behind the bolted doors of houses across the western suburbs.
It includes footage of :
- an ordinary looking Yagoona cottage in which 12 Asian workers were locked in against their wills
- two large brick workshops constructed in a Cabramatta backyard. When union officials approached, 15 people scarpered in all directions.
- a fullscale clothing factory in the backyard of a Canterbury house being powered by a line strung from the home to the sheds, via a clothesline. It blows in the breeze and rubs against guttering. Inside, more than 20 workers were being paid $6 an hour, all-in.
- a barred and gate Canterbury cottage in which every room is used for clothing manufacture. The kitchen houses industrial reels, the bedrooms are full of sewing machines, while halls and the lounge house racks and racks of clothing. Documentation showed it was supplying a fashion house in Surry Hills.
- A Fairfield house registered for pressing. Inside big industrial fusers are visible. The paper trail reveals it is producing thousands of garments valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There are also shots from inside factories set up behind shopfronts across the western suburbs, graphically illustrating health and fire hazards. The worst examples on film were recorded at Chippendale, Bankstown and Belmore.
Tritton picks the location of such operations will become a hot political issue in affected neighbourhoods.
"We put a lot of resources into this video to help these councils do their jobs. If they don't care one way or the other, we will probably make it available to the media. The information is too improtant to ignore."
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