Outworkers to get stronger protection under FW laws

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Outworkers to get stronger protection under FW laws

The Federal Government has moved to give more protection to clothing outworkers under the Fair Work Act ¯ some of whom earn as little as $2 an hour.

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The Federal Government has moved to give more protection to clothing outworkers under the Fair Work Act ― some of whom earn as little as $2 an hour.

Legislation introduced into Federal Parliament today will:
  • extend the operation of most provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 to contract outworkers in the textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) industry
  • enable TCF outworkers to recover owed payments
  • enable a TCF outwork code to be issued.
Sweatshops
 
The Bill will also address a limitation in the current provisions governing right of entry in relation to breaches affecting non-outworkers in the TCF industry who may be working under ‘sweatshop’ conditions.

The Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans, said some of the most vulnerable workers in our society are TCF outworkers ― those who are engaged to work at home rather than in traditional business premises.

‘These outworkers are often migrants with poor English language skills and a lack of knowledge about the Australian legal system,’ he said.

‘The legislation introduced today will make it easier for outworkers to receive minimum entitlements and will ensure compliance with the relevant provisions at all levels of the supply chain.’
 
Ethical
 
‘By improving compliance with the existing provisions across the board and by introducing consistent provisions for outworkers, large retailers and clothing brands will have additional assurance that the garments they sell have been manufactured in an ethical way.’

Evans said a number of reviews over the past 15 years have raised concerns about the situation of outworkers and sweatshop conditions in the TCF sector.

A report by the Brotherhood of St Laurence in 2007 found that outworkers experience poor working conditions and are frequently underpaid, sometimes receiving as little as $2 or $3 per hour.

The Senate Economics Reference Committee’s Inquiry into Outworkers in the Garment Industry (1996) also found problems with payments and hours of work, as well as confusion and misinformation in relation to rights and responsibilities.

The government has also renewed its $4m grant to Ethical Clothing Australia, to support its work in highlighting issues faced by outworkers and promoting accredited brands to consumers.
 
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