Ripped-off clothing workers back paid after investigation

CLOTHING manufacturers in Maryborough and Hervey Bay have been forced to back pay their workers after a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation.

More than 80 workers across Queensland, including the Fraser Coast, have been back paid a total of $50,500 after the ombudsman audited 171 clothing manufacturers.

An audit revealed 50 of the businesses (29%) had breaches in record-keeping, pay slip and underpayment, while the remaining 121 employers were compliant.

The audits were prompted by several complaints from within the industry, raising concerns in the ombudsman's office that many workers might be unaware of their rights or reluctant to complain.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Michael Campbell said clothing outworkers who make garments from their home or another location, instead of working from business premises, were a particular focus of the campaign.

"Complex supply chain structures can mean outworkers don't know who their actual employer is, or they may be reluctant to complain for fear of losing orders and so these workers can be more vulnerable to exploitation," he said.

Only 11 of the businesses audited (6%) employed outworkers.

Seven of those were found to have contravened record-keeping obligations and the conditions specific to outworkers in the relevant award.

Mr Campbell said while the compliance rate for businesses engaging outworkers was disappointing, a common cause of the errors was employers being unaware of their obligations, rather than a deliberate attempt to avoid them.

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