TCFUA Campaign for Outworkers’ Rights
Outworkers’ Legal Rights
Most home-based clothing workers are told by their employers that they are contractors, not workers. Just because they work at home, employers try and cheat them out of the wages and benefits that a worker in a factory would receive.
By law, TCF outworkers are entitled to most of the key protections and benefits as workers in a factory, namely:
- payment no less than the minimum wage and hourly rate for the clothing industry
- WorkCover insurance
- annual leave and long service leave
- severance pay if they are made redundant
Even though outworkers have a legal right to these and other entitlements, they are usually only paid a piece rate payment equal to as little as $4.00 or $5.00 an hour, while the legal minimum wage is almost $16.00 an hour. Some manufacturers simply gather outworkers together in their factory and “auction” off work to whoever will accept the lowest payment.
In addition to low wages, the biggest problems outworkers face today are:
- Irregular work
The clothing industry is highly seasonal. Sometimes outworkers may go weeks or months without any work, and then have to work around the clock to finish rush orders in peak season.
- No superannuation
Most outworkers have either no superannuation to support them in their old age, or pay their own superannuation out of their already low piece-rate salary.
- No WorkCover
Shoulder, hand and back injuries… repetitive strain injuries… damage to eye sight from straining over fine stitching in poor light… these are all common problems in the clothing industry. But most employers do not have WorkCover for their outworkers, leaving them to foot the bill for any medical treatment or loss of work capacity.
- Fired at will
Outworkers are almost never paid any severance if they are made redundant, or their employment is terminated.