The Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia will allege 23 companies have breached important outwork and other provisions of the awards.
The companies will join more than 170 others already taken to court by the union for failing to meet minimum legal standards in the clothing industry.
Michele O’Neil, the union’s national secretary, said outworkers were particularly vulnerable to exploitation, given the hidden nature of their work and their isolation.
“TCF outworkers, almost uniformly migrant women, labour at home at the end of long and complex supply chains,” she said.
“Despite their high level of skill, most are forced to work long hours for very low wages, some for as little as $5-$6 an hour.”
She said the TCF award provisions imposed obligations on the whole supply chain to make transparent where the work was being done, who had done it and under what conditions.
Ms O’Neil said without the transparency, it was impossible to identify the sweatshops and where the outworkers were, how much workers were being paid and whether other labour standards were being complied with.
“The award breaches alleged by the union go directly to this issue,” she said.
“To put it simply, the award outwork provisions are critical to ensuring that sweatshop workers and outworkers receive their minimum legal wages and entitlements.”