Are your clothes made in sweatshops?

If you’re wearing anything from Nike, adidasPuma, Fila or even some of our well-loved Australian brands like Bonds or Just Jeans, then it’s highly likely your clothes were made in places that most people would describe as sweatshops.

What is a sweatshop?

A sweatshop is a manufacturing facility where workers endure poor working conditions, long hours, low wages and other violations of labour rights. Unfortunately, places known as sweatshops are particularly common in developing countries where labour laws are often not enforced. Factories can be located in dangerous and deteriorating buildings that are not safe places to work. There have been several cases in Bangladesh of factory collapses and fires that have resulted in more than 1800 fatalities in 2005. Other issues of concern are workers with exposure to toxic substances or using dangerous machinery without adequate protection.

Are sportswear and garment factories really sweatshops?

If confronted, many of the major supply factories might deny that they’re sweatshops and advise they adhere to strict codes of conduct. But in developing countries this is difficult to monitor. The codes of conduct are often not enforced because factories are put under pressure by sourcing companies to produce clothing cheaply and quickly.

The sad fact is,  many workers in the global sportswear and garment industry are living in poverty — even though they have paid jobs.

The workers producing for companies like Nike, adidasPuma, The Just Group, Pacific Brands, Asics, FILA, Mizuno, New Balance and Umbro, who are mostly young women (aged 17–24), often endure low wages and long hours in dangerous and hostile conditions.

Many of these workers do not like describing their workplaces as “sweatshops”, because they think it makes them sound like victims. But these workers know their wages and conditions are unacceptably low and many of them organise protests to demand better wages and conditions, even though doing so can put their jobs at risk.

Buy sweat-shop free clothes

If clothing carries the Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) label it means the garment was manufactured in Australia and the manufacturer has committed to ensuring that all of the people involved in its production received, as a minimum, the legally stated wage rates and conditions — known in Australia as award wages and conditions.

To find out which Australian made garments you can purchase to support fair working conditions, see the ECA list of accredited brands.  Brands include high-end fashion, corporate wear, casual street wear, sportswear and uniforms.

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