Workers’ rights: what is Oxfam doing?

The global garment market is very lucrative.

In the 2013 financial year, two of Australia’s biggest garment companies — The Just Group and Pacific Brands — earned profits of $ 76.7 million and $73.8 million respectively.

So it seems that while the big wigs behind the big Australian garment brands are getting richer, the workers actually making the products are living in poverty.

They barely earn enough money to care for themselves and their families, and many are forced to work long hours in treacherous conditions. In 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka collapsed, killing more than 1100 Bangladeshi workers and injuring 2500.

Across the world, when workers try to join together to fight for their rights they often experience violence, threats or sacking for trying to improve their conditions.

Oxfam Australia is working along other international and local organisations to persuade major companies to improve the rights and conditions of workers.

We are keeping a watchful eye on the big brands and encouraging them to do more to uphold workers rights.

Who we’re watching

  • Pacific Brands
  • Just Group
  • Best & Less
  • Other Australian garment manufacturers like Kmart, Target, Cotton On

What we’re doing

Supporting unions

  • We’re supporting workers to form into networks and unions where they can actively work together to uphold their rights.

Supporting women’s rights

  • Women make up approximately 80% of the global workforce in the clothing manufacturing sector and are often subjected to greater difficulties than men, including sexual harassment and discrimination against women workers who become pregnant. We’re encouraging discussion in the unions and organisations on how to best support women’s rights and women’s.


  • We’re lobbying brand representatives and publicly encouraging them to improve their labour practices.
  • We help mobilise national and international pressure on brands to improve their labour practices.
  • We work with local campaigners to ensure safety in the workplace. Since 2009 we have campaigned Australian companies to improve conditions. We successfully persuaded Just Jeans and Pacific Brands (Bonds) to ban deadly sandblasting and signed many of Australia’s largest clothing retailers to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord.We have lobbied companies like Cotton On, Kmart, Target, Big W, Country Road, Forever New, Katies, Millers to ensure living wage are paid to workers and to publish the location of supplier factories to allow independent monitoring of conditions. Since the Bangladesh factory collapse, over 160 companies have signed onto the accord including Australian companies Cotton On, Kmart, Target, Forever New, Specialty Fashion Group (Katies, Millers, Rivers), Woolworths, Pacific Brands and Pretty Girl Fashion Group (Rockmans).


  • We support training for workers representatives, particularly women workers, to help them build their knowledge of their rights and their skills in campaigning to get those rights respected.

Learn more