‘Australian fashion retailers graded poorly on labour rights’

Canberra, April 19 (IANS) Australian fashion retailers are not paying enough attention to the conditions of workers who are providing them materials and creating their products, said a report on Wednesday.

The report highlighted worrying statistics for those businesses who source their products from India, Bangladesh and Cambodia where many are paid below living wages, Xinhua news agency reported.

The organisation also highlighted the “Sumangali Scheme” in India, whereby young women and girls were bound by contracts spanning three to five years to work in factories, and are afforded little to no rights in often “hazardous conditions.”

In the report, charity organisation Baptist World Aid Australia assessed the fashion outlets on a number of key labour rights metrics, including policies, knowing and auditing suppliers, and worker empowerment.

Empowerment of employees was identified as one of the key concerns by the group, who awarded an average of a “D+” grade to the companies assessed.

According to surveys conducted by the report, only 24 per cent of Australian businesses have methods in place to help those who are forced or child labourers to rehabilitate when discovered.

Only 32 per cent of businesses have a method for employee grievance resolution at their final supplier locations.

Living wages, a wage that allows the worker to cover their basic needs along with being able to have a small disposable income, was also assessed by the report.

It concluded that no Australian companies were able to show that their raw materials suppliers were being paid a living wage, while only one per cent of companies could demonstrate that their inputs, or finished materials workers were receiving living wages.

The report which assessed 103 Australian companies, gave an average grade of “C+,” with 13 businesses receiving “A” grades, while 10 companies were given fail grades.

–IANS

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