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Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 03/2002 by Roza Lozusic

The issue of outworker exploitation is one which has periodically come under public focus and scrutiny. This is due to, in part, the concerted effort made by organisations such as Fair Wear and others (most notably the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia) to highlight outworker pay and conditions. Over the years, protests organised by Fair Wear outside retail chains have brought media attention to an area of industry which is rapidly expanding.

Outworkers have also been the subject of many recent reports and inquiries, the majority of which conclude that some exploitation does occur (although the nature and extent of the poor working conditions are disputed). Many commentators have grappled with the difficulty of reform in this area and possible solutions to this problem. These difficulties in part stem from the largely hidden nature of the outworking industry.

Part 1 of this paper sets out a profile of outworkers and their working conditions (pp 3 -12).

Part 2 outlines the industrial legislative framework governing outworker conditions and explores how effective the award structure is in protecting outworker pay and conditions (pp 11-21).

Part 3 investigates the common law treatment of outworkers and whether or not they fall within the common law definition of employees or independent contractors (pp 21-23).

Part 4 briefly summarises 4 recent key reports and investigations in this area, particularly the Cregan Report, November 2001, and the Institute of Public Affairs Report, October 2001, which have received some media attention (pp 24-30).

Part 5 outlines the NSW Government's reform strategy (p31), whilst Part 6 lists some recent legislative changes as a result of the reform strategy (pp 32-35).