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Inala resident and clothing outworker Thoa Tran and supporters today protested outside Queensland Parliament asking why Campbell Newman and the LNP wanted to make their work and lives harder.
Already, Thoa and the thousands of other clothing outworkers toiling away in garages and lounge rooms in Queensland, work long days sewing garments for clothing retailers and making as little as $5 an hour.
Without consultation, the LNP recently axed a mandatory code of practice for clothing manufacturers which will reduce vital protections for outworkers.
Thoa, through interpreter Ly Nguyen, said she made school uniforms for a local manufacturer, and was paid for each garment. She has been an outworker for 18 years.
Thoa said she does not have superannuation or paid leave.
“If I get sick then I get no pay for those days. Sometimes I work to 11pm – I have three kids. The government should treat outworkers as fairly as other workers in Australia,” she said.
“Why does the Newman government want to make our lives and our work harder.”
She and fellow outworker Hun Nguyen produced a special pillowslip for Premier Campbell, and asked him to reverse the axing of the code.
Today’s protest had the support of around 20 outworkers, Queensland unions, the Uniting Church, and the Fair Wear campaign.
Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia National Secretary Michele O’Neil said the repeal of the mandatory code of practice for home-based clothing outworkers would allow a return to a previous era of exploitation.
The key feature of the Code is the requirement for transparency throughout clothing supply chains by identifying every person involved in the production of a garment. This includes where an outworker has been used and who their employer was. This information is critical for checking whether outworkers are receiving their proper entitlements and are otherwise being treated fairly.
“We are concerned that the LNP thinks ethics are out of fashion in the Queensland clothing industry,” she said.
Ms O’Neil said outworkers in Queensland were often paid just $5 to $7 an hour and received no annual or sick leave, superannuation and found it difficult to access workers’ compensation.
“There are thousands of home-based outworkers toiling away in their garages or lounge rooms assembling garments. This code is an important protection for their livelihoods,” she said.
“The LNP has bulldozed through this change without a thought for the impact on our most vulnerable workers, mostly from migrant backgrounds. The code is not red tape – it’s about ensuring transparency and fairness,” she said.
Queensland Council of Unions President John Battams said the Code of Practice was a critically important law protecting outworkers from exploitation.
“There is a voluntary Ethical Clothing Australia code, which reputable employers such as Cue, adhere to. Apart from that, now that the LNP has removed the mandatory code there is now significantly less protection in Queensland for these workers,” he said.
The Code was formulated under the previous Labor government with the strong support of unions, church and faith groups and community organisations (including Fair Wear) with an interest in protecting the rights, wages and conditions of clothing outworkers.
“We urge the government to reconsider these changes which will disadvantage an already vulnerable group of workers,” he said.