Pacific Brands’ sandblasting ban puts workers’ lives before profits

Campaigns and Advocacy, Fair Trade & Workers Rights, Media Releases, News article written on the 20 Jun 2012

Pacific Brands, makers of King Gee and Hard Yakka, has put people’s lives before profits by banning the use of deadly sandblasting throughout the factories that make its denim products, Oxfam Australia said today.

Oxfam Australia workers’ rights advocacy coordinator Andrea Maksimovic said that after three years of communicating with Pacific Brands on workers’ rights issues, Oxfam was heartened to see Pacific Brands ban the low-cost finishing technique frequently used to give a vintage look to jeans.

The process is known to cause silicosis, a life-threatening pulmonary disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust.  Silicosis has resulted in more than one hundred documented fatalities amongst denim workers.

A number of Pacific Brands labels have previously used sandblasting in the manufacture of their jeans, including workwear brands King Gee and Hard Yakka.

Pacific Brands has committed to sell out all remaining stock and not place any further orders for sandblasted denim products, including products produced by licensee brands such as Diesel. 

Pacific Brands has also put in place a program to monitor its suppliers and subcontractors to ensure that the ban is enforced.

Ms Maksimovic said Pacific Brands’ commitment to comprehensive auditing to ensure that that the ban was implemented was a crucial step forward, as sandblasting had been found in factories producing for companies after they claimed they had banned the practice.

“Clearly, announcing a ban alone is not enough—the bans must be enforced and Oxfam will remain vigilant to ensure that this happens, ” Ms Maksimovic said.

She also called on Pacific Brands to go a step further to address the poisonous legacy of sandblasting, by providing medical checks to workers who have been employed at facilities sandblasting their products, providing urgent medical treatment and financial support for workers who have been affected by silicosis and ensuring that any workers who lost their jobs because of the ban be re-trained and re-hired.

Pacific Brands joins a growing number of global brands that have committed to ban the deadly practice, including Levi-Strauss & Co, H & M, Esprit and Gucci.

“Oxfam calls on all other Australian retailers, including home-grown surf-brands Rip Curl and Billabong, to follow the example of Pacific Brands and put people before profits,” Ms Maksimovic said.“

And there is much more that Pacific Brands can do to support the rights of the women and men employed throughout the factories producing its goods,” Ms Maksimovic said. 

“Ultimately, we’d like to see Pacific Brands become a global leader in this sector by actively supporting initiatives to enhance workers’ rights, including allowing workers to freely join a union, and providing workers with a living wage.”

Meanwhile, Just Group, owned by Premier Investments, committed publicly to a ban on sandblasting in September last year.  Oxfam now is calling on Just Group to enforce the ban on sandblasting throughout the Just Group supply chain by using adequate monitoring processes in cooperation with local trade unions and NGOs.

For more information and interviews please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801