Ethical Clothing Australia’s Homeworkers Code of Practice, which helps reduce the exploitation of textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) workers in Australia, has been reauthorised by the ACCC for a further ten years.
The Code imposes obligations on participants in the supply chain to demonstrate that they provide award wages and conditions to textile, clothing and footwear workers.
The ACCC considers that the Code is an important tool for incentivising businesses to observe their obligations to vulnerable workers in the TCF industry and take steps to manage legal and reputational risks in their outsourced supply chains.
“By increasing industry and consumer awareness about working conditions, businesses accredited under the Code are also able to promote their ethical credentials to consumers,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“The certification trademark for ethical textiles, clothing, and footwear, allows consumers to choose products with confidence that the businesses they are buying from aren’t exploiting workers.”
“Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of unethical practices on vulnerable workers and some are changing their buying habits as a result.”
The ACCC examined the possibility that the Code could lead to anti-competitive detriment such as increased costs for businesses seeking accreditation, but concluded that this risk of detriment is limited because the Code is voluntary.
Retail signatories and accredited manufacturers are only able to agree to boycott other businesses that are not compliant with their legal obligations, and the Code contains safeguards against inappropriate accreditation or boycott decisions.
Accredited businesses can display the following ethical certification trademark on their signs and products to demonstrate their compliance:
(Source: IP Australia, Trademark #1338510)
The ACCC’s final determination is available at: Homeworker Code Committee Incorporated.
Homeworkers are individuals and employees who perform work in the textile, clothing and footwear industry from home or at other premises that would not commonly be regarded as business premises.
The Homeworker Code Committee Incorporated is a not-for-profit organisation and registered charity (ABN 88997259919). The Homeworkers Code of Practice is central to its operations in overseeing compliance in the TCF Industry, preventing the exploitation of TCF Workers and promoting TCF products produced in accordance with Australian laws.
The Homeworkers Code of Practice, is soon to be renamed ‘Ethical Clothing Australia’s Code of Practice, Incorporating Homeworkers’. The Code Committee has made minor amendments to the Code since 2013, when the Code was last authorised by the ACCC, and is proposing to implement further changes.
In order to gain accreditation under the Code, businesses must submit to audits undertaken by CFMMEU which check that those businesses are complying with their legal obligations to workers.
Audits are also conducted along the supply chain of businesses seeking (or renewing) accreditation under the Code, to ensure that the accredited businesses are complying with their legal obligations to the workers involved at each stage of the production of TCF products sold by the accredited business.
The positive impact of the Code on the working conditions faced by Vietnamese outworkers in Australia is described in the submission to the ACCC by Dr Shelley Marshall, RMIT University dated 21 May 2018.
Authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the public benefit from the conduct outweighs any public detriment.