The Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) yesterday began Federal Court proceedings in Melbourne against several Australian fashion labels it says breached laws protecting outworkers.
Labels including Arthur Galan, Very Very, Driza-Bone and Nevenka were listed among 23 companies the union say have not met minimum legal standards relating to the provision of awards.
While last year’s Bangladesh garment factory disaster spurred many retail players into being more transparent about their supply chains, the 23 companies join more than 170 others already taken to court by the TCFUA for similar breaches.
But several of the labels involved say the unions have taken an aggressive stance and are naming companies that work hard to manufacture within Australia.
Both Driza-Bone and Nevenka this morning told SmartCompany they have nothing to hide and welcomed full transparency.
Arthur Galan and Very Very were contacted, but did not respond prior to publication.
TCFUA National Secretary Michele O’Neil told SmartCompany the award provisions breached were obligations that make the whole supply chain more transparent.
O’Neil says manufacturers are required to register with the Fair Work Commission, provide quarterly lists of where the clothing is being made and have written agreements in place regarding contracting arrangements. They must also keep proper work records of the terms and conditions.
She says the majority of companies had an average of 10 breaches each, all on multiple occasions.
“These requirements are important because they are designed to protect workers at the bottom and every step through the supply chain,” says O’Neil.
O’Neil says the union wrote to each company twice before they carried out inspections and received “zero response”.
“We think companies should be on top of their legal requirements,” says O’Neil. “Some of these manufacturers have been in the business for years and there have been no new requirements introduced [recently].”
“The only reason you wouldn’t be transparent was if you were worried about your supply chain,” she says.
Driza-Bone executive director Mark Mackinnon told SmartCompany he had not been served papers and did not know what the allegations were.
“From a Driza-Bone perspective, we don’t use outworkers to manufacture any garments and we never have. We pay everyone on or above the award rate,” says Mackinnon.
Mackinnon says many of the companies named are still manufacturing in Australia despite higher costs and they should be applauded.
He says the action by the union “appears to be a smear campaign”.
Nevenka owner Rosemary Masic told SmartCompany she was served with papers this morning and was looking at legal costs of up to $10,000.
“We have nothing to hide,” says Masic. “I manufacture in Australia and I have great outworker relationships. I have set up my own in-house manufacturing studio in Collingwood and I welcome them [going through it].”
O’Neil has responded, saying, “We have solid evidence and we don’t commence legal action without solid grounds. We are happy for court to test this and confident of our action.”