89% of Australians would pay more for clothes to ensure safety of overseas garment workers

Media Releases article written on the 20 Apr 2016

Three years on from the Rana Plaza factory collapse, a new Oxfam survey has found that more than 89 per cent of Australians polled are willing to pay more for clothing from a company that ensures garment workers have safe and decent conditions.

Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the national Oxfam survey showed most Australians want fashion retailers to behave ethically and ensure the safety of workers that make clothes sold in Australia.

“Our survey showed that 21 per cent of those polled were happy to pay more than $10, another 30 per cent would pay between $5-10, and 48 per cent would pay an extra $2 – $5. This is incredible, given that just $1 more would mean a substantial difference to a worker earning only $20 a week,” Dr Szoke said.

The survey examined attitudes of 1,000 people towards Australian companies producing garments overseas and has been released just before the third anniversary of the disaster in Bangladesh on 24 April, which killed more than 1,100 people and injured 2,500, mainly women garment workers.

“The survey also showed that 87 per cent of Australians polled were not confident overseas workers making clothes for Australian clothing companies are earning a fair wage and working in a safe and clean environment,” Dr Szoke said.

The survey has been released at the same time as a new Oxfam scorecard on the transparency of Australian fashion brands globally which has found seven out of 12 of Australia’s major fashion retailers are still not publishing a full list of names and locations of their overseas factories for all to see.

Dr Szoke said the national Oxfam survey and scorecard combined showed that while most Australians want companies to behave ethically, they were being ignored.

“The Oxfam survey revealed that 87 per cent of Aussies polled agree that all companies should publish the names and locations of their factories abroad,” Dr Szoke said.

“The public is demanding that Aussie brands come out of hiding and reveal where they source their garments, but seven out of 12 of our big brands, including household names such as Cotton On, Pacific Brands (that own Bonds), and The Just Group (that own Just Jeans and Peter Alexander) still haven’t published the names and locations of all the factories they use around the globe,” Dr Szoke said.

“Without this information it’s extremely difficult to independently confirm whether workers associated with Australian brands are being treated fairly, whether their conditions are safe or what they are paid. Bangladesh, for example, is the second-largest supplier of clothes to the Australian fashion industry. But workers making clothes in Bangladesh are paid only about $20 (AUS) a week, and often work up to 11 hours a day, six days a week. This is not enough for these women to lift themselves out of poverty.”

On the positive side, the Specialty Fashion Group (that own Rivers, Katies and Millers) and Woolworths have now taken action. Oxfam congratulates them on publishing their full garment factory details, and joining those that are open and transparent about their supply chain, along with Kmart, Target and Coles.

“Bringing garment factories out of the shadows is a first step towards better conditions for the people who make our clothes,” Dr Szoke said. “It is time that all Australian brands publish these details.”

For interviews or more information, please contact Alice Plate on 0418 873 782 or alicep@oxfam.org.au