Kmart’s disclosure of supplier factories an Australian first, says Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Fair Trade & Workers Rights, Media Releases, News article written on the 17 Dec 2013

Kmart’s disclosure today of the locations of its supplier factories in Bangladesh is an Australian first and a crucial step on a journey towards better conditions for workers, Oxfam Australia said today.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke said the move was a ‘watershed moment’ for Australian retailing that would encourage transparency for the rest of the industry.

“This is a very important move and means that Kmart is leading the pack amongst Australian clothing retailers in being open and accountable about exactly where its clothes are made,” Dr Szoke said.

“Oxfam’s 20 years of experience researching the clothing industry has found that low wages, long hours of overtime, violation of trade union rights and unsafe conditions are the norm.

“Kmart’s disclosure of supplier factory locations will enable researchers, NGOs and civil society groups to independently check workers’ conditions by speaking to workers on site.

“Without releasing information about supplier locations, there is no way to independently check with workers that decent conditions and basic rights are being upheld within factories.”  

Today, Target (which is also owned by Wesfarmers) announced it intended to reveal its supplier factories in Bangladesh within the next six to nine months, with India and China to follow.

Kmart and Target were the first Australian companies to sign on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord earlier this year, an agreement that mandates independent building inspections, a thorough review of safety standards, and repairs and renovations to unsafe factories.

Dr Szoke said disclosing supplier factory locations went further than their obligations under the Accord.  “We urge other Australian retailers to follow Kmart’s lead, by being open about where they source their garments,” she said.

“Consumers are increasingly asking companies questions, wanting to know that workers making their clothes are being treated fairly.  Transparency is an important first step towards achieving safe and fair work conditions – the next step is that all Australian retailers need to do more to ensure workers are receiving living wages and are able to access their rights inside factories.”  

Today’s announcements comes two weeks after Oxfam published a ‘Naughty or Nice’ Index, outlining which Australian retailers had and had not signed on to the Bangladesh Safety Accord.

According to the list, retailers who had signed were Kmart, Target, The Cotton On Group, Forever New, Woolworths (Big W), Specialty Fashion Group (which owns Rivers, Katies, Millers and Autograph), and those on the ‘Naughty’ list were Best & Less, Just Group (Just Jeans, Jay Jays) and Pacific Brands.

More than 7000 people signed a petition urging those brands to sign on to the Accord, as well as calling on them to publish factory locations, ensure a living wage for workers and respect for trade union rights in their supplier factories. The ‘Naughty or Nice’ list on Oxfam’s Facebook page was seen by more than 450,000 people.

Following this public pressure, Pacific Brands took the welcome step of joining the Accord yesterday (Monday 16 December).

For interviews, please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801