A report by an international aid agency has found that most Australian fashion retailers do not know whether forced child labour is being used to make fabrics used in their garments.
The Australian Fashion Report, which is the culmination of two years of research by Baptist World Aid, assessed the ethical practices of 41 companies and 128 clothing brands. Baptist World Aid Australia spokesman Gershon Nimbalker says that he is troubled by the findings in the report.
"If companies don't know, or don't care, who is producing their clothes, it's much harder to know whether workers are exploited or even enslaved," he said.
"While 39 per cent of companies knew all, or almost all, of the suppliers involved at the factory level, that number dropped dramatically to 7 per cent at the raw materials stage of production."
Woolworths is again under pressure to sign a voluntary safety accord following another fatal fire at a Bangladesh clothing factory this week.
Target and Big W have confirmed they have sold goods linked to the factory in which at least nine people died, and Woolworths is currently investigating whether it has done the same.
Target has already signed a voluntary safety accord designed to prevent such incidents and Woolworths is promising to sign it.
But Woolworths is being less clear about whether it actually buys garments from Bangladesh, despite telling consumers that it does not.
The huge fire at the Bangladeshi factory, whose workers were making clothes and fabrics for top Western labels, killed seven people and injured dozens more.
Firefighters battled through the night on Tuesday (local time) to douse the flames at the Aswad Knit Composite factory at Sripur, on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka.
Parts of the two-storey building were still smouldering early on Wednesday.
Police said the fire, which broke out when most of the 3,000 workers had left, was so intense that most of the bodies were too badly burned to be identified.
Both Gap and H&M denied that they had placed orders for clothes at the factory, but said they had a supplier relationship with its owner Palmal Industries, one of the country's largest garment groups.
South Korean garment industry urged Cambodia to act on striking workers
South Korean embassy officials and factory workers had direct contact with the security forces behind the violent dispersal of striking garment factory workers near the Cambodian capital last week.
A motivation for the sudden confrontations outside Phnom Penh emerged via a South Korean embassy statement released, and now deleted, on Facebook.
A two-week garment workers' strike was violently broken by police and military firing into protesting crowds on Friday, leading to the deaths of up to five people.
In a wide-ranging investigative report by the GlobalPost news website, an administrative officer with South Korean-US garment maker Yakjin, which supplies products to Gap and Walmart among others, said the pleas of factory owners extended directly to the military.
The emergence of the South Korean statement confirming representations between Seoul and Phnom Penh also raises questions about a fluke video snapshot recorded during the dispersal of the garment workers.
A video posted on Facebook on January 2 shows several frames of an individual wearing the South Korean insignia and the same military fatigues as his Cambodian counterparts engaged in clearance operations.
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