Budget cuts by the Federal Government to Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) have left the fashion regulatory body fighting an underfunded and up-hill battle as Australian worker exploitation continues.
The $1 million cut in funding is crippling for those responsible for the rights of workers within an industry known for exploitation and its large “hidden workforce” called outworkers.
According to the Textiles, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia these outworkers are paid below-award wages dropping as low as $4 an hour and are often working 16-hour days in overcrowded and negligible conditions.
The union responded with force to the budget cuts and promptly accused twenty-three Australian fashion labels of exploiting their workers. A Federal Court case was launched against these businesses accusing the companies of being bereft in their duties to their outworkers.
A spokeswoman for Employment Minister Eric Abetz stated the funding was “effectively a government subsidy to a union for work it would be doing anyway", a statement quickly rebuked by the TCFU explaining it relied on ECA to monitor and inspect claims of exploitation.
Following the funding cut was a decision to scrap the rules requiring clothing makers attempting to win government contracts to adhere to ethical regulations. This knee-jerk reaction and an attempt to deregulate came after some businesses were found to be moving to overseas.
Funding cuts are devastating to workers and are based on an inherent ignorance to the problems which plague the fashion industry. It's applications however, are some of the most effective and crucial for much of the Australian workforce.
It has been a poor year for fashion industry workers and Ethical Clothing Australia needs your help - now more than ever.