Fashion retailers exploiting Bangladeshi factories
Some of the biggest Australian fast fashion brands have been accused of sustaining systemic inequality by purchasing clothing from factories where workers are treated poorly.
Some of the biggest Australian fast fashion brands have been accused of sustaining systemic inequality by purchasing clothing from factories where workers are paid poorly and forced to work long hours.
New research from poverty charity Oxfam found that of the major retailers in Australia, H&M was deemed to be the most equitable with its suppliers while Mosaic Brands – owner of Katies, Rivers and Crossroad – was deemed to be the worst.
The report, titled Shopping for a Bargain and released today, ranked 10 fashion retailers in Australia including Best&Less, Big W, Cotton On, H&M, Inditex (Zara), The Just Group, Kmart, Myer, Mosaic Brands and Target.
It found that retailers were accused of aggressively negotiating prices, providing short lead times and making last-minute changes to orders that directly impacted factory workers' lives.
All of the above retailers source their clothing from Bangladesh, who Oxfam approach to grade the retailers on how fair they were with their pricing, as well as their willingness to negotiate.
Ranking in a four-star system, the Bangladeshi factories scored H&M the highest with 3 out of 4, followed by Big W, Kmart and Target who all scored 2.5 out of 4.
Cotton On, Zara and Myer and Best&Less received 2 out of 4, while The Just Group and Mosaic Brands scored just 1.5 out of 4.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said the research shows cut-throat pricing in the Australian market has real implications for those making the clothes thousands of kilometres away.
"The research reveals unfair purchasing practices are pressuring factories into adopting poor working conditions and paying unacceptably low wages," Ms Morgain said.
"It found that these poor purchasing practices of brands are making it impossible for factories to increase wages, despite many of the same brands making public commitments to ensure the payment of living wages.
"Instead, wages are trapping workers - mainly women - and their families in a cycle of poverty."
The Oxfam report notes that The Just Group, Myer, Cotton On and Zara all declined to participate in the survey, as did Mosaic Brands.
This means their overall score out of four was simply that given to them by the factories.
More than 150 surveys were completed and 22 in-depth interviews completed with factory owners, supervisors, workers and union leaders.
Ms Morgain said more fashion brands needed to make public commitments that they would pay supplying factories a fair price for goods, to give workers a liveable wage.
"Brands that are lagging behind need to take the step of making a public, credible commitment to living wages," Ms Morgain said.
"With just one month today until Christmas, shoppers should demand big brands end this cycle and do better in the way they do business - in turn giving real meaning to their commitments to end poverty wages for the women making our clothes."
9News.com.au has contacted the listed retailers for comment.