What’s the problem with Just Group?
Just Group has not taken the steps needed to uphold workers’ rights in its Australian and overseas supplier factories.
Seventy percent of Just Group clothing is produced off-shore through Hong-Kong based sourcing agent Li & Fung. Just Group claims that the rights of its overseas workers are protected. But Li & Fung refuses to release information about the way that monitoring is done, whether any labour violations are found, and whether any steps are taken to correct problems.
Li & Fung also keeps secret the names and addresses of all its supplier factories. This makes it impossible for an independent organisation to verify workers’ conditions.
About 30% of Just Group clothing is produced in Australia, often by women working from their homes (known as homeworkers). Homeworkers in Australia are frequently exploited. They face below-minimum wages (as little as $3 an hour) and substandard working conditions.
Just Group committed to uphold the rights of homeworkers when it signed the Ethical Clothing Australia/Homeworkers’ Code of Practice. Unfortunately the company has done little to implement this code. Just Group has not yet obtained Ethical Clothing Australia accreditation, which means there is no guarantee that workers producing for Just Group in Australia receive decent wages and conditions.
Just Group has not yet obtained Ethical Clothing Australia accreditation, which means there is no guarantee that workers producing for Just Group in Australia receive decent wages and conditions.
In February 2011 Just Group was alerted to the serious health risks faced by workers who sandblast denim. Sandblasting (a technique commonly used in denim production) puts workers at risk of contracting a potentially lethal disease known as silicosis. The majority of brands owned by Just Group sell denim products, and some—including jeans by Jay Jays— were advertised online as ‘sandblast denim’.
Over the next 7 months following our initial contact with the company about sandblasting, Oxfam wrote letters to the company and met with Just Group representatives to urge the company to ban sandblasting. More than 600 people sent letters to Just Group calling on the company to ban the dangerous practice.
On 23 September Just Group publicly announced a ban on the purchase of sandblasted jeans, committing to sell out all remaining stock and not place any further orders. Oxfam welcomes this important step by the company. We are now asking that Just Group implement the other five steps of the ban, particularly ensuring that workers exposed to sandblasting receive medical checks. Another important step is to ensure that all workers in the Just Group supply chain who stand to lose their jobs with the banning of this practice are prioritised for re-hiring and receive re-training if necessary
What’s the solution?
Accreditation to Ethical Clothing Australia
- As a signatory of the Homeworker’s Code of Practise, the Just Group should implement the Code and obtain full accreditation from Ethical Clothing Australia.
Full accreditation to Ethical Clothing Australia (formally known as Homeworkers’ Code of Practice) is an important way for companies manufacturing in Australia to ensure that their goods are made according to Australian award wages and conditions. In 2009 Just Group indicated that it would look into gaining accreditation for its Australian supply chain, however the company is yet to take this important step.
- The Just Group should publicly release a list of its supplier factories.
Transparency is an important first step towards ensuring that workers’ rights are upheld. We encourage the Just Group to publish the names and addresses of all supplier factories that make the Just Group goods. This would make it possible for external companies to verify conditions at supplier factories.
Independent verification of workers’ conditions
- Audits should include off-site meetings.
Verification of workers’ conditions is important because low wages and labour rights abuses are the norm across the apparel industry in Asia. Organisations employed to carry out verification should be independent and professional. Off-site meetings with workers (where they are free to speak candidly) are essential.
Fair and decent wages
- Ensure workers overseas are paid a living wage.
By becoming a signatory to National Retailers Ethical Clothing Code several years ago, the Just Group confirmed the importance of upholding Australian minimum award wages and conditions. The Just Group should also ensure a living wage is paid to those overseas workers making Just Group’s products (ie. one that allows workers to meet all the basic needs of their family after working a full-time working week without overtime). Establishing and monitoring a living wage can be developed in cooperation with local NGOs and unions in supplier countries.
Fully implement the ban on denim sandblasting
Just Group has taken a good first step by publically committing to ban sandblasting. Oxfam is now calling on the Just Group to enforce the ban on sandblasting throughout the Just Group supply chain by using adequate monitoring processes in co-operation with local trade unions and NGOs.
- Work in cooperation with local trade unions and NGOs to:
- Ensure that all workers who have worked at facilities sandblasting Just Group products are contacted and receive medical checks.
- Ensure that any workers in the Just Group supply chain who have been affected by silicosis urgently receive medical care and are provided with financial compensation.
- Ensure that all workers who have worked in sandblasting in The Just Group supply chain and stand to lose their jobs with the banning of this practice are prioritised for re-hiring and receive re-training if necessary.
- Perform adequate risk assessments when new production methods are introduced.