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Govt cuts funding to fight fashion sweatshops

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The federal government will cut funding to Ethical Clothing Australia, the garment industry’s only ethical compliance body which aims to remove fashion sweatshops from Australia.

The Age reports that the government will cut $1 million worth of funding to the organisation which inspects conditions in an industry that employs predominately female workers from migrant backgrounds.

Explaining the decision to cut the funding a year early, a spokeswoman for Employment Minister Eric Abetz told the Age that the work would be handled by the union anyway and there was no need for the union to receive funding for that work.

However, the union claimed that workplace audits on behalf of Ethical Clothing Australia are not part of its usual role.

“There will now be no independent verification as to the standards applying to workers making garments,” Michele O’Neil, national secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union told the Age.

Last week, the union launched legal action against 23 Australian fashion labels, claiming they are not protecting workers from exploitation and some workers are being paid as little as five dollars an hour.

AAP reports that the clothing companies in question include Drizabone, Arthur Galan, Kamakaze, Mariana Hardwick, Very Very and Arthur Galan.

The action will take place in the Federal Court in July. The court can impose fines of up to $51,000 for breaches.

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