Tell us where our clothes are made

Labour rights article written on the 10 Jul 2013

When retailers tell the truth about where their products come from, their honesty means better working conditions for the people who make the products.

Oxfam has spent nearly two decades investigating the global clothing industry, uncovering a world where low wages, long hours of overtime and unsafe work practices are the norm. Our investigations are made all the more difficult by big businesses refusing to tell us where their clothing is made.

Kmart is the first major Australian retailer to agree to come clean. The company has announced it will publish the addresses of the factories around the world where its clothing is produced, effectively opening the factory doors to independent investigators who will determine whether employees are being denied fair wages and safe working conditions.

Foreign companies including Nike, Levis, Timberland and H&M have already agreed to a similar level of transparency, and now that Kmart is on board, the pressure is on for more Australian retailers to do the same.

The Bangladesh factory collapse that claimed the lives of more than 1,100 workers in April made many consumers stop and think about the real price of cheap clothing, but the tragedy isn’t limited to Bangladesh. Since April, two more factories have collapsed in Cambodia and one in India, killing five people.

The problem is not where the clothes are produced, but how. And once we know where to look, we can focus on improving conditions for factory workers all over the world.

We call on all Australian retailers to follow Kmart’s lead and assure customers that they are being open about the location of their overseas factories and allowing independent checks. Australians have a right to know where and how our clothes are made.