18 March 2001

Bishop: bad treatment of outworkers

World unsafe for women

Human cloning condemned

New Bishop of Sandhurst

World Day of Prayer

Catholic Education head defends public schools

Catholic Education head defends public schools

The ongoing terror of being a woman

More silence than ever about female torture

Editorial: St Patrick – the first anti-slavery protester

Letters: Who are sons of the Church?

My captors, my friends: Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan

Reflection: Where will charity move now?

Australia’s battlers making ends meet

Obituary: Death of pioneering Grail leader

Work-life – getting the balance right

Under the oak tree: The gentle one

New seminarians for a new millennium

18 Mar 01

Bishop: bad treatment of outworkers

Bishop Brennan – no ‘fair go’ for outworkers

By Chris Hook

All Australians must be shocked at the working conditions endured by outworkers.

 So said the chair of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Bishop William Brennan, addressing a rally outside NSW Parliament House, last week.

The ‘Fair Wear’ rally was organised to draw attention to the treatment of outworkers – those people, mainly women, contracted to sew clothing at home and paid piece rates.

And, because of the quick turnaround required, other family members, including children, often help them. They can work a 12–14 hour days and are paid as little as $2–3 an hour.

There are an estimated 50,000 outworkers in NSW, who assisted by up to 20,000 unpaid family members.

“All members of Australian society must be shocked at the appalling injustice suffered by women and children outworkers,” said Bishop Brennan.

“It is a blot upon our national character.

“Here we are celebrating the centenary of our federation, the formation of our nation, a nation that has always prided itself on offering a ‘fair go’ to all and yet some of our weakest and most defenceless members are denied basic wage justice,” said Bishop Brennan.

“We need all fair-minded people to protest about the situation, to make their feelings known to parliament arians, and to the suppliers and manufacturers of the garments.”

Fair Wear campaigners want legislation put in place to ensure proper award wages and conditions are paid to contractors and that consumers understand under what conditions their clothes are produced.

Campaigners also say retailers and manufacturers should be penalised for non-compliance and that a compliance regime should be set up and overseen by the Department of Industrial Relations and the unions.

In the run-up to the 1999 state elections, Premier Bob Carr promised legislation to stop the exploitation of women and children in the textile, clothing and footwear industries.

“These workers deserve a ‘fair go’,” said Premier Carr. But nothing has happened and Fair Wear campaigners say they are tired of waiting.

“To the Government we say that justice will not be achieved without legislative reform,” said Bishop Brennan.

Industrial Relations Minister, John Della Bosca, spoke at the rally and reiterated the State Government’s commitment to legislate to outlaw exploitation in the clothing industry.

This legislation was still being drafted, said Mr Della Bosca.

“It has to be the right package. It has to actually work.”

“We want our legislation to be the legislation the other states will use to put similar legislation in place,” said Mr Della Bosca.

The Fair Wear rally comes in the wake of further clothing manufacturing closures. Australian swimwear manufacturer, recently closed its Windsor Speedo factory in Sydney so it could outsource manufacturing to subcontractors, who will then use outworkers. This has resulted in 65 job losses.

Fair Wear campaigners say Speedo has effectively “washed its hands” of wage responsibility.