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Survey Says: Aussies Favor Safe Factories Over Low Costs

Low prices aren’t everything, as a recent consumer survey among Australians confirms.

A nationwide survey of 1,000 people asked their attitude about garments manufactured in foreign countries, said Helen Szoke, CEO of Oxfam Australia.

Oxfam is an international non-profit organization fighting poverty and advocating workers rights, among other objectives.

Some 70 percent of the survey respondents said they’d be willing to pay more for their foreign-made apparel if better wages were paid to the people manufacturing it and if those employees worked under safe conditions.

Ms. Szoke urged Australian retailers to push foreign manufacturers for better pay and working conditions, in an ABC TV Four Corners interview.

“One of the challenges that we at Oxfam have is actually knowing how many companies produce their garments overseas because of this lack of transparency,” said Ms. Szoke in the interview.

She also encouraged Australian retailers to sign on to the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord,  the Bangladesh government’s contract with private apparel manufacturers to improve working conditions.

Among the first companies to sign the agreement were K-Mart and Target, followed by Forever New and Cotton On, among several others, “What the accord will do in the first instance is to just lift, generally, where the factories are, where garments are produced,” said Ms. Szkoe.

When the location of Bangladesh factories making garments earmarked for Australia — and elsewhere — are known, inspections can begin and improvements made.   Ms. Szoke said she believes there are Bangladesh factories which have yet to sign the accord and she wants them to commit to the agreement and to its stipulations.

“Our view is that it shouldn’t require a major public campaign [to get factories to sign the accord],” she said.

“…This is a great opportunity for these companies to improver the conditions of workers and to demonstrate good practice in this space, rather than waiting to be outed.”