UPDATE: Kmart has issued a statement on the issue of fair wages in its supply chain.
"We believe that everyone touched by our business should be treated fairly and with respect, whether they shop with us, work for us, or work for a supplier in a factory making our products.
"In some of the countries from which we source our products, factory workers are not paid a wage that is fair or meets their basic needs. This is why we are working with our partners to achieve a living wage for factory workers.
"Simply paying higher prices, however, will not result in factory workers receiving a higher wage. The only way to do this is by working in partnership with other retailers, trade unions, suppliers, workers and national governments.
"This is why in 2015 we joined other global retailers and brands to collectively work with unions and workers through the ‘Action, Collaboration, Transformation’ (ACT) initiative, which aims to implement a sustainable solution to achieving a living wage.
"This month, ACT will release its commitments on purchasing practices after thorough consultation with unions, suppliers and businesses. As part of our commitment to ACT and living wage, we intend to set a public target for implementation of the purchasing commitment in February 2019.
"This is a complex issue but we believe strongly that by working collaboratively we can achieve a positive outcome."
Kmart Australia is at the centre of an Oxfam campaign around living wages for workers.
Oxfam Ambassador and comedian Sammy J has created a song and video clip highlighting that the women who are making clothes in the supply chains of Australian brands are trapped in poverty.
A regular shopper at Kmart, Sammy J has used hissong to call on the iconic retailer to step up and become a trailblazer by making a credible, time bound commitment towards paying a living wage – setting an example for its competitors to follow suit.
“Poverty wages are being paid to the workers, mainly women, making clothes in factories in countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia for Australian brands,” Sammy J said.
“This means no matter how hard these women work, they often cannot even afford the basics – too many are forced to live in slums and cannot even put enough food on the table for their families."
Oxfam Australia CEO Helen Szoke praised the video campaign.
“Kmart is one of many Australian brands that buys its clothing from factories across Asia, where mainly women are paid minimum wages of less than $1 an hour to make the clothes we buy,” Dr Szoke said.
“Kmart has been a leader on factory safety and transparency – showing where their clothes are made all around the world. The company says it is committed to living wages and it has joined a global initiative called ACT. But right now workers in Kmart’s supply chain earn poverty wages. It’s time for Kmart to set out its concrete actions towards living wages, with clear timeframes.
“The minimum wage in Bangladesh, where women make clothes for Kmart and many other Australian brands, is just 39 cents an hour. It is set to increase to 62 cents an hour, but even with this increase, workers on the minimum wage take home just $128 a month – about half the estimate of a living wage.”
Dr Szoke said a living wage would mean that pay earned in a standard week would cover essential needs including food, housing, healthcare, clothing, transport, education, and some money for unexpected events.
“The Australian fashion industry turned over $24 billion last year – it is grossly unjust that the women who make our clothes remain entrenched in lives of poverty,” Dr Szoke said.
“Kmart has taken some great steps in the right direction, but what we need now is for them to go one step further. Kmart must publicly state the actions it will take to help achieve living wages in its supply chain – and the timeframe by which these actions will be implemented."