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School kids should wear ethically produced uniforms - Fairwear
16
Jul '10
At a recent media conference Prime Minister Julia Gillard reportedly announced a Labor Party policy to extend the education tax refund to include half the cost of uniforms if Labor is re-elected. She also indicated her support of school uniforms: “part of a high quality education is learning how to present yourself to the world and that's what a school uniform is all about," she said.

Fairwear (a coalition of groups campaigning to end the exploitation of clothing) warns, however, that by encouraging the purchase of school uniforms through taxation and policy support, the Labor Party risked associating itself with poor, and sometimes dangerous, labour practices. The number of uniforms purchased, and the number of children wearing uniforms, is likely to jump due to the tax break.

Mark Riley, Education Officer with FairWear, said, “Uniforms may encourage a sense of self pride, but not when they are made under sweatshop conditions”.

“Many Australian companies supply uniforms made overseas where uniforms are, by and large, not monitored nor accredited. After 15 years of campaigning sweatshop operations are still found in Australia,” said Mr Riley. “Although governments, unions and the industry have been working to overcome this, outworkers continue to report being paid $4-5 an hour.”

He went on: “Sweatshop labour conditions are rife in the production of school uniforms. This is a great opportunity to see more school kids wearing ethically produced uniforms because of the policy.”

Elizabeth Kingston of Poppets & Crystal Bears, a family owned schoolwear company, suggested that there is a clear policy solution for the Labor Party: “Tax breaks need to be linked only to uniforms made by accredited Ethical Clothing Australia labels, and other policy instruments should be used to encourage accreditation. The Government can then avoid a repeat of the sort of unethical practices utilised by unscrupulous companies in the insulation scandal”

The bright side to this story is that many school uniform companies have become accredited, so as to ensure consumers that school wear is produced ethically with Australian workers receiving fair and legal wages and conditions. Accredited schoolwear companies include Blue Gum, Poppets Schoolwear (Crystal Bears), Surrey Clothing and Qualitops. Other school wear companies are in the pipeline to become accredited thanks to pressure from schools that care.

Fairwear Australia

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