The Just Group
What’s the problem with The Just Group?
The Just Group has not taken the steps needed to uphold workers’ rights in its Australian and overseas supplier factories.
The Just Group is yet to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord, an agreement that ensures the safety of Bangladeshi garment manufacturers.
A staggering 1,800 people have died in factory fires and collapses in the Bangladesh garment industry in the past 10 years. More than 160 companies have now signed up to the legally binding Bangladesh accord.
The Just Group have joined another safety initiative called the ‘Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety’. This agreement is a significantly weaker process and is not legally binding.
Other companies like ‘Fruit of the Loom’ have signed the Accord as well as the Alliance agreement in Bangladesh. The Just Group needs to step up and join the Accord as the best practice initiative.
In February 2011, The Just Group were 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’.
After the initial contact with The Just Group about sandblasting, Oxfam wrote letters to the company and met with Just Group representatives to urge the company to ban sandblasting. Over the course of seven months, more than 600 people sent letters to The Just Group, calling on the company to ban the dangerous practice.
On 23 September 2011 The 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, but we remain concerned that without publishing the locations of its supplier factories — we will not be able to monitor whether the sandblasting ban is really enforced inside factories.
What’s the solution?
Improve factory safety:
Sign up to the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord.
- It’s time The Just Group finally signed onto this agreement that ensures legally-binding improvements to factories.
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 produce their garments . 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 and conditions:
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.
Ensure workers have the right to join a union and collectively bargain in the workplace.
- The Just Group should ensure the voices of the workers are heard collectively and that they have the right to call for decent conditions and wages without fear of losing their jobs.
Fully implement the ban on denim sandblasting:
The Just Group has taken a good first step by committing to ban sandblasting practices. Oxfam is now calling on The Just Group to enforce the ban on sandblasting throughout the The Just Group supply chain by using adequate monitoring processes in cooperation with local trade unions and NGOs, such as:
- Ensure that all workers who have worked at The Just Group sandblasting facilities 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 may lose their jobs with the banning of sandblasting in The Just Group supply chain are prioritised for rehiring and receive retraining if necessary.
- Perform adequate risk assessments when new production methods are introduced.