Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has urged the Queensland Government to act quickly to proclaim a mandatory code of practice for outworkers in the clothing industry.
The Queensland Government legislated in 2005 to enable it to proclaim such a code and recently sought comment on a proposed code which it has developed.
The Commission has made a submission to the Government supporting the introduction of the code and urging the Government to proclaim it as soon as possible.
The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Commission had shown an interest for the last decade in better protection for clothing outworkers.
“One of the first things I did when I became the Commission’s Executive Officer in 2001 was to represent it at the official launch and signing of a voluntary Queensland code of practice for outworkers,” Mr Arndt said.
“The Commission also did a lot of work to ensure that special protections for outworkers were included in the former Coalition Government’s WorkChoices legislation in 2005 and its independent contractors legislation in 2006,” he said.
“Many of the people we are seeking protection for are vulnerable women who get paid very low rates for making garments at home,” he said.
“They often have unrealistic demands placed on them in terms of delivery times for orders,” he said.
“The proposed code means that there will be greater transparency in the complex production chain in the clothing industry,” he said.
“This transparency will help in tracking down unscrupulous contractors who are not paying outworkers adequately,” he said.
“The Commission’s submission argued that the code would also help in protecting these workers’ entitlements to health and safety protection,” he said.
“Outworkers suffer three times the rate of manual handling injuries as factory-based clothing workers,” he said.
“We think this is linked to their poor pay rates and unrealistic delivery times,” he said.
“The Commission’s submission stressed that outworkers had rights in relation to their working conditions and pay,” he said.
“These rights are essential to protect their human dignity which is a principle at the heart of the Church’s social teaching,” he said.
“We want Queensland to join New South Wales which has had a mandatory code in force since 2005 and South Australia which introduced a code last October,” he said.
“These workers should not be exploited and a mandatory code will help to stop this,” he said.
“It will also help ethical contractors who are looking after their workers because unscrupulous contractors won’t be able to undercut them by paying their workers below-award pay rates,” he said.
”This code is another step in efforts to provide vulnerable women with fair and just conditions,” he said.
For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.
NB This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Charter which enables it to speak in its own right. The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.