Aussie fashion brands shift on safety

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 11 May 2018

Leading Australian fashion names lagging behind their industry counterparts must step up after another two popular brands joined a vital new safety accord to protect the workers making our clothes, Oxfam Australia said today.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke congratulated Workwear Group, owner of Hard Yakka and KingGee, and Licensing Essentials, which produces merchandise for brands including the AFL, NRL, Warner Bros and Holden, for signing the 2018 Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord.

Dr Szoke said other popular brands that were dragging their feet urgently needed to follow the example of Workwear Group and Licensing Essentials as this month’s deadline for the 2013 Accord to expire loomed.

The historic 2013 Accord was developed in the wake of the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building, which claimed the lives of more than 1100 workers in Bangladesh on 24 April 2013.

On the eve of last month’s fifth anniversary of the catastrophic factory collapse, Oxfam Australia joined 12 other prominent organisations to call on leading Australian brands to sign onto the critical safety Accord.

“There is no room for complacency and absolutely no plausible excuses for failing to sign the new Accord,” Dr Szoke said today.

“The Accord is critical to ensuring the safety of more than two millions workers – more than 70 per cent of them women – and preventing a repeat of a similar tragedy in Bangladesh.

“With increased pressure for brands to be held to account on issues including transparency and the payment of living wages, the Accord is one of the most basic responsibilities of brands in protecting the human rights of the women making our clothes.”

The 2013 Accord – the first agreement of its kind between more than 200 brands and retail owners, factory owners and unions representing workers – provides for independent safety inspections that have been conducted in more than 1600 factories in the last five years.

Many iconic Australian brands that signed the first Accord – including Kmart, Target, Big W, Cotton On, Forever New, Specialty Fashion Group (Katies, Millers, City Chic and Rivers), APG and Co (Saba, Jag and Sportscraft), Designworks (Everlast, Republic, Dunlop and Mooks) and now Workwear Group and Licensing Essentials – have already done the right thing and signed on to the new the agreement.

Noni-B, which had signed the 2013 Accord, is yet to join the new agreement. And some well-known Australian brands – the Just Group (Just Jeans, Peter Alexander), Best and Less, Myer, Fast Future (Valley Girl, TEMT) and Country Road – have shown even further disregard for the plight of the workers in their supply chains, having failed to sign either the old or new Accord. Oxfam understands that some of these brands are currently considering joining the new Accord – and we call on them to do so urgently.

“The fashion brands that have failed to sign the Accord are falling behind the times and the expectations of their customers, who have a right to be confident that the safety of workers has not been put in jeopardy for them to make our clothes,” Dr Szoke said.

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