||Issue No. 230||23 July 2004|
Kill the Lawyers
Interview: Power and the Passion
Unions: Tackling the Heavy Hitters
Industrial: Seeing the Forest For The Wood
Housing: Home Truths
International: Boycott Busters
Economics: Ideology and Free Trade
History: Long Shadow of a Forgotten Man
Review: Chewing the Fat
Poetry: Dear John
The Locker Room
The Agony Of The Refugee
Vandals Hit Sweat Shoppers
Stunned TCFUA official, David Tritton, understood the implications of extensive scratching and gouging on the bodywork of the organisation’s new Holden Crewman.
"When we came out of a building, after visiting a maker's factory, there were two men just standing there watching us," he said. "They were well-built, well-dressed Chinese who stood out in that area.
"They just stared at us as we walked back to the car which had been completely vandalised. It was obvious someone was sending us a message."
The previous day, Tritton had told an IRC industrial committee that a list of addresses of sub-contractors provided by Valley Girl supplier, Stephanelle, had been bodgey.
Under the Clothing Industry Award, suppliers like Stephanelle are required to comply with requests to supply sub-contractors names and addresses. The measure is designed to drive sweatshops, typically paying non-English speaking women as little as $3 an hour, out of the industry.
One Stephanelle address turned out to be a surveyor's office, another a car audio showroom and a third was home to a furniture retailer. Others simply didn't exist.
Tritton told Workers Online of uncovering a Chester Hill garage equipped with 20 sewing machines and Stephanelle documentation indicatiing that blouses, tops and pants were headed for Valley Girl and upmarket boutique, Dolls Only.
The operator of that premises said he had been manufacturing for Stephanelle for two years but could only provide wage records and Workers Comp policies, for two people, covering the week he was sprung.
His records showed he was receiving $4 a unit and sub-contracting the garments out at $3 a unit.
"We estimate, to meet award minimums only, manufacturers would have to receive at least $5.29 a unit," Tritton explained. "That doesn't include workers compensation, super or any profit margin.
"There is no way in the world that any person actually doing the work could be paid the minimum legal hourly rate, on those figures," he said.
Tritton told the industrial committee that three Stephanelle sub-contractors listed company offices at fictitious Melbourne addresses but issued tax invoices from non-existent Sydney bases.
He told Workers Online of MTN, a company purporting to be registered at 30 Henry St, Abbotsford, Victoria; while billing customers from 20 Henry St, Abbotsford, NSW.
While still sending out GST invoices from Abbotsford, Sydney, he said, it hadn't held an ABN number since July, last year.
Tritton said the bodgey addresses and false invoicing highlighted the need for companies, like Valley Girl, to sign the retailers code of conduct.
The TCFUA asked Valley Girl, boasting 74 retail outlets across Australia, to meet about the issues exposed by Stephanelle's documentation. However, a Valley Girl official said its CEO was "too busy".
Tritton said the vandalism incident wouldn't put TCFUA officials off the trail of companies exploiting outworkers or using sweatshops.
"We are not going to be intimidated," Tritton said. "These checks will continue until companies face up to their legal and moral responsibilities."
Tritton said the vandalism had been reported to police.
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