So-called ‘budget for women’ threadbare for textile clothing and footwear industry, union claims

By Melissa Coade

Sunday May 16, 2021

textiles-sewers
(Image: Adobe/NDABCREATIVITY)

Women dominate the textile clothing and footwear industry, but the federal budget has delivered nothing to assist this workforce, the CFMEU has said. 

CFMEU Manufacturing, the union for textile clothing and footwear (TCF) workers, says the federal government’s 2021 budget ‘ignores vulnerable workers in the female-dominated industry’. Not only does this fail to protect workers, many of whom are from non-English speaking backgrounds, but it also fails to promote best practice in the manufacturing industry and acknowledge those doing the right thing by their workforce.

“Parts of the industry are still underground and characterised by mass exploitation, sweatshops and appalling conditions where wage theft, harassment and poor safety abounds,” TCF national secretary Jenny Kruschel said.

““A ‘budget for women’ can’t actively ignore the wage theft, super theft and appalling conditions of thousands of women.”

According to the union, calls by Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) for the government to contribute $6.75 million over three years to support and expand their operations, have been ignored for two years running. 

ECA was set up to tackle worker exploitation in textile and footwear supply chains and provides accreditation to companies to ensure that workers receive their legal pay and entitlements. Commonwealth support for the group was cut by the Abbott government in 2014 as part of the government’s ‘commission of audit’.

“ECA’s call for government assistance is supported by not just workers and the union, but hundreds of companies and supply chain firms committed to doing the right thing and wanting to promote the accredited and ethical, Australian-made part of the industry,” Kruschel said.

Calls for reinstatement of funding continue to fall on deaf ears, the CFMEU said in a statement, vowing to escalate its campaign in support of the group by ‘mobilising thousands of workers in the industry’s supply chain to lobby political parties for commitments ahead of the next federal election’. 

Kruschel wants to see the government support everybody in the supply chain from ‘top to bottom’.

“We need to back Australian manufacturing, we need sustainable and ethical jobs,” she said.

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