Report Back: Sweatshops - Human Rights Abuses & Positive Solutions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Martin Pritchard   
Friday, 04 December 2009 21:41

Tommy Clark at MSF information eventingOn Thursday November 19th the Melbourne Social Forum held our ‘Working on what we wear: Tackling exploitation in the clothing sector’ event at Donkey Wheel house.  After a brief overview on sweatshops in the global context Tommy Clarke, from the joint union-industry ‘No Sweat Shop label’ accreditation system gave a presentation about the ‘No Sweat Shop label’.  We learnt about the barriers that had limited the success of the ‘No Sweat Shop label’ accreditation and the new proposed branding changes that are hoped to ensure more clothing manufacturers sign up to the voluntary code to commit themselves to ensuring that the workers throughout their supply chain are paid a fair wage and operating under fair and safe working conditions.

See more photos here.

Some key points from the evening:

  • The abuse of labour in the fashion industry is widespread
  • Outworkers or home workers are generally self employed textiles or clothing workers who operate from their own homes.  There are estimated to be around 300,000 outworkers in Australia
  • The wages of outworkers are not covered by any kind of award and thus they are not guaranteed any minimum wage for their work.  They are often paid as low as $3 to $4 an hour and sometimes work up to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.   They are a bit like contractors who bid to perform services (sewing) for the clothing manufacturers.   
  • The supply chain is often 3 or 4 levels deep and thus the small profits that could be made from work are often taken up by ‘middle men’.  
  • The clothing industry is very time driven and often there is a large volume of work to be completed in a small amount of time to meet the fast fashion cycles.  To meet the timelines, outworkers sometimes need to bring in the help of family members.
  • Fairware  is an independent advocacy group who campaign to eliminate the gross exploitation of homeworkers   in the Australian clothing industry.
  • There is a need for the carrot (No Sweatshop Label) and stick (Fairware) approach

We screened a short film titled “Migrant Workers Left In the Lurch” that documented the struggles faced by migrant workers in Singapore when a recruitment company turns its back on their obligations.   You can watch the video on Engage Media

We screened a short documentary on the 2009 Melbourne Social Forum.  You can watch it here

We also gave a quick overview of the social innovation hub that is starting up at Donkey Wheel House.  The hub will be a community of progressive organisations and businesses who are working to create the changes and solutions needed to solve social and environmental problems.   Organisations would be expected to pay a fee to have a desk and work out of the hub, however they will receive additional benefits, like free workshops, skills sharing, assistance with business planning, strategies and planning to become financially self sufficient.  The MSF have been helping with the project and we have put up our hands to assist manage the hub when it opens.  

The MSF would like to thank Donkey Wheel for the use of Donkey Wheel house and to thank everyone for attending and participating in the discussion.


Last Updated ( Friday, 04 December 2009 22:18 )
Welcome to the Melbourne Social Forum PDF Print E-mail

The Melbourne Social Forum is a process, a movement, an event and an organisation. The MSF facilitates social change and explores alternatives in the interest of social justice and ecological sustainability.

The Melbourne Social Forum is a catalyst that brings together a diversity of ideas, perspectives, activists, religious traditions, cultures and organizations from the not-for-profit, profit, education, arts, indigenous rights, unionist, social justice and environmental justice areas. By building bridges between many progressive organisations and sharing visions, we are better able to address the pressing challenges of the 21st century, be they global or local in scope.

Our energy materialises through the organisation of events online and in the real world where the MSF provides a platform for discussion, workshops, stalls and the enjoyment of music, arts, food and culture. In 2007, over 500 individuals and organizations took part in our three day event at CERES environmental park where they attended some of the 50 workshops, 30 stalls, 4 key note speakers and enjoyed live music, delicious food, a film festival and other art and cultural displays

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MSF Events PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris Chinchilla   
Sunday, 14 December 2008 16:36
MSF Events, click to view our calendar
Next MSF Organisers Meeting PDF Print E-mail
Written by Martin Pritchard   
Wednesday, 26 November 2008 21:50

The next MSF organisers meeting will be held on Thursday 10th December 2009, 6.30pm at Social Justice Centre – Blue Room 124 Napier St, Fitzroy.  Everyone, including new members or just people wanting to learn more about the MSF are welcome to attend

Last Updated ( Friday, 04 December 2009 22:24 )
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