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Australia’s federal government is withdrawing its support from a longstanding program that protects the country’s garment workers from sweatshop exploitation. The move, a victim of budget cuts, effectively puts an end to Ethical Clothing Australia, a joint industry-union initiative that relies on the government’s annual $925,000 largesse to stamp out human-rights abuses in the local textile, clothing, and footwear industry. It’s a decision that will harm both ethical Australian apparel businesses and vulnerable homeworkers at the bottom of the production supply chain, according to the group, which calls it a “green light to exploitation.”

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“ECA’s accreditation program is internationally recognized as best practice in an industry in which exploitation is endemic,” says Simon McRae, national manager of Ethical Clothing Australia, says in a statement. “Critically, the ECA accreditation program has assisted thousands of homeworkers in the TCF industry obtain their lawful wages and conditions. Through its training and education programs, ECA has assisted hundreds of businesses understand and comply with their legal obligations.”

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Founded in 1996—and originally known as the Homeworkers Code of Practice—Ethical Clothing Australia accredits fashion businesses that adhere to a system of transparency, fair wages, and strict oversight to prevent the mistreatment and underpayment of Australia’s thousands of predominantly migrant women garment workers.

Certified manufacturers earn the privilege to use the Ethical Clothing Australia label on their Australian-made clothing and footwear.

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More bad news: As part of its recent drive to “cut red tape,” the Tony Abbott-led government has also dropped rules requiring Australian clothing makers bidding for large government contracts to comply with an ethical code of conduct.

Officials say it’s the Fair Work Ombudsman’s role to enforce compliance with workplace laws.

+ Ethical Clothing Australia