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The Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) today celebrated a new law which will provide important and long overdue national protections for outworkers and sweatshop workers in the TCF industry. The Fair Work Amendment (Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry) Bill 2011 passed into law with the support of the Greens and the Independents this afternoon.
Ms Michele O’Neil, TCFUA National Secretary, said “This is an historic day. Over the last 15 years the Parliament has heard evidence, shocking in its consistency regarding the systemic exploitation of outworkers in the TCF industry. This is an issue in which the jury is well and truly in. We congratulate the Gillard Government for taking this critical step in legislating to improve the working and personal lives of some of Australia’s most disadvantaged workers.”
The new TCF law addresses the unequal position of TCF contract outworkers who labour at the bottom of long and complex supply chains by ensuring that they have the same status, protections and entitlements as employees under the Fair Work Act. It will also allow outworkers to recover unpaid wages and entitlements up the supply chain when their employer refuses to pay them.
Ms O’Neil added, “Forcing sham contracts on TCF outworkers has been endemic. Sweatshops too have continued to flourish with little scrutiny. This law means that, whatever they are called or wherever they work, TCF outworkers and workers in sweatshops are entitled to be treated with the same dignity under the law as any other Australian employee. These workers will now be entitled to receive the same minimum wages and conditions as every other worker in the industry.”
The union strongly urged the TCF industry employers to get on board. “It is utterly unacceptable that in 2012 there are still significant numbers of workers in this industry who do not receive even the most basic working conditions, including a minimum hourly rate of pay, leave and a safe and healthy workplace’.
Ms O’Neil cautioned unscrupulous companies “The reputable employers in the industry have nothing to fear from these laws but those who continue to shamelessly exploit vulnerable workers are on notice. We are determined to clean up this industry. Its future lies in great design, innovation and ethical production.”
For further information and comment please contact the TCFUA National Secretary, Michele O’Neil on 0419 338 853