More than 80 workers in Queensland’s clothing manufacturing industry have received back-pay totalling $50,500.
This follows an audit of 171 Queensland clothing manufacturers by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The workplace regulator has released the findings of an audit program targeting the industry which saw Fair Work inspectors check the books of businesses across the state.
According to the findings 121 employers (71 per cent) were compliant with workplace laws and paid staff correctly. But 50 (29 per cent) of those businesses audited had a combination of record-keeping, pay slip and underpayment breaches.
The audits followed complaints from within the industry which raised concerns at FWO 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,” Campbell said in a statement.
Surprisingly, just 11 of the businesses audited (six per cent) employed outworkers. Seven of those (64 per cent) had been found to have contravened record-keeping obligations and the conditions specific to outworkers in the relevant award.
Campbell said that while treatment of outworkers was disappointing, this underpaying was often the result of ignorance of the award obligations, rather than a deliberate attempt to avoid them.
He said Fair Work inspectors educated employers on their obligations and the businesses have now put processes in place to ensure they comply in the future.
“The audits also provided valuable insight into the clothing manufacturing industry which we will draw upon when planning future campaigns,” he said.