||Issue No. 206||05 December 2003|
A New Mark for Labor
Interview: Muscling Up
Unions: Thinking Pink
Bad Boss: Global Bully
Unions: National Focus
Economics: Friend or Flunkey?
History: Young Blood
Industrial: Living For Work?
International: Fighting Together
Poetry: Medicare Plus Blues
Review: Human Racing
The Locker Room
Bob Gould On Kicking The Liberals Out
Bosses Block Good Shops Code
The code, part of the Behind The Label strategy, currently works as a voluntary option for retailers and sets out to ensure that retailers do not stock clothing made by exploited outworkers.
Five of the six stakeholders represented on the Ethical Clothing Trades Council (ECTC), including a peak retailer's body, supported the move to a mandatory code. The one objector was Australian Business Limited, who does not represent retailers, but had ideological objections to the introduction of any regulation.
The chair of the Ethical Clothing Trades Council, Mr Joe Riordan, believes that more time is needed to measure the effectiveness of the Voluntary Code.
Currently only 40 out of 1690 retailers are signatories to the voluntary code that makes available details of their suppliers, turnaround times and price structure to outworker's representatives.
"The Textile Clothing & footwear union of NSW (TCFUA) disagrees with the chair's reasons,' says Barry Tubner, Secretary of the TCFUA. "At this point in time there is not one outworker who is better off today than they were 12 months ago."
The ECTC had proposed that a mandatory code be introduced after a designated period, allowing signatories to the Voluntary code to remain on the less stringent voluntary code while non-signatories would be bound by the stricter mandatory code. If voluntary signatories broke the code they would be compelled to fall under the authority of the mandatory code.
Tubner, whose union is represented on the ECTC, believes the move to a mix of voluntary and mandatory regulation is a way of rewarding those retailers that do the right thing.
The move towards a mandatory code is a world first and other jurisdictions in Australia are watching developments in NSW closely.
"The minister should support the position of the retailers,' says Tubner. "Any government that doesn't move to protect outworkers isn't doing what people elect them to do."
"The vote took place four months ago and I haven't had one of those stakeholders call me up and say they've made a mistake. They have been watching closely what the minister will do."
With only a handful of retailers signatories to the voluntary code the lack of mandatory regulation remains a problem for outworkers.
"Retailers haven't formed a conga-line to sign up to be ethical," says Tubner.
The TCFUA also rejected the relevance of statistics that the 40 signatories to the voluntary code represented approximately 70% of retail clothing trade - as much of their clothing was imported and the code only applied to clothing made in Australia.
Clothing made by Australian outworkers was more represented in women's fashion retailers, many of whom were not signatories to the voluntary code.
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