Australian fashion brands that are lagging behind must make real commitments to ensure the payment of living wages to the women who are making their clothes and remain trapped in a cycle of poverty no matter how hard they work, Oxfam Australia said today.
Releasing the Naughty or Nice Christmas list, Oxfam Australia Labour Rights Lead Sarah Rogan said popular brands had been called out for failing to make credible commitments to living wages.
“While a number of iconic Australian brands have come on board and taken the significant first step towards ensuring the payment of living wages, others are dragging their feet,” Ms Rogan said.
“The brands on our naughtiest list – Just Jeans, Peter Alexander, Jay Jays, Myer, Rivers, Katies and W. Lane – have not only failed on living wage commitments, but have not even taken the step of becoming transparent by bringing their factory lists out of hiding.
“Meanwhile, Big W is on our naughty list for failing to make a credible commitment on living wages, while Zara is also on the naughty list this Christmas – although the global fashion giant has made a commitment on living wages, it has still failed to publish the details of the factories where its clothes are made.”
Ms Rogan said brands on Oxfam’s nice list – including Kmart, Cotton On, Bonds, Gorman and David Jones – had made commitments that included a clear and appropriate definition of a living wage, and at least two or three key milestones and timelines to reach those significant steps.
“Whilethe ‘nice’ brands are to be commended for leading the way, there is still a long way to go to ensuring the payment of living wages that will allow the women making out clothes to live decent lives,” Ms Rogan said. “The fact is that right now, not all workers are being paid enough to afford a decent life for themselves and their families.”
A living wage means enough money is earned in a standard week to cover basic essentials including food, housing, healthcare, clothing, transport, education and some money for unexpected events.
“A living wage is not a luxury, but is a minimum that all working people should be paid if they are to escape the cycle of poverty,” Ms Rogan said.
“Ground breaking research released by Oxfam earlier this year – based on in-depth interviews with hundreds of workers in factories in Bangladesh and Vietnam supplying clothing to Australian brands – revealed a system of entrenched exploitation and widespread payment of poverty wages.
“Women who spoke to us as part of the Made In Povertyreport were being paid as little as 62 cents an hour in Bangladesh and told of being unable to afford treatment when they fell sick, not being able to send their children to school, not being able to make their pay stretch to put enough food on the table and being separated from their children.
“But our What She Makesresearch has also shown that the lucrative fashion industry – worth a staggering $23 billion last year – can afford to absorb the cost of paying living wages in their supply chains, which would add just 1% on average to the retail price of a piece of clothing.
“With just one month today until Christmas, shoppers should demand the big clothing brands they know and love do better by making a public, credible commitment to ensuring the payment of living wages, so the workers making their clothes can lift themselves, and their families out of poverty.”