ECA Week Outworker Story: Kim
My name is Kim. I’m originally from Vietnam and I now live in Melbourne
I’ve been working as a sewing machinist for a long time! I started working in my 20s, so I have been doing this job for over 20 years. I started working in the industry because it was the family business. My cousin had a factory and many people in my family worked there. Some of my family members are still working in the industry here and back home in Vietnam, but I’m the only person working from home (as an outworker) in my family.
”Before this job, I was being paid per garment, but now I have a signed agreement and part-time hours. I have more job security, better pay, and other entitlements.Kim, Homeworker
I have five kids and used to be a full-time mum, though I did occasionally do a little bit of work at a clothing factory. I used to work long hours, sometimes until 2am, to get sewing jobs done. When a lot of the machinist work went offshore, we had to take a lower pay because there wasn’t enough work. Now there is a shortage of skills in the industry because people left it. I did too – I went to work in a bakery and as an Uber driver for a while, but I came back to sewing because I love the work.
Working from home suits my schedule and lifestyle. I have two girls in primary school and working from home allows me to drop them off and pick them up from school. When they’re sick, I don’t have to take sick leave because I can look after them while I work. Being in my own space and managing my own time is important to me.
Apart from sewing, my favourite thing to do is cook for my kids. We’re a big family and we love to eat together. On the weekend, my older children come over to my house and they always ask for special meals to take home with them. Their favourite dishes are phở (brothy rice noodle soup) and crab or pork bánh canh (thick noodle soup).
”For me, it’s not about the money, it’s about whether my work looks good or not.Kim, Homeworker
I have never worked within an Ethical Clothing Australia supply chain until now. Before this job, I was being paid per garment, but now I have a signed agreement and part-time hours. I have more job security, better pay, and other entitlements.
I specialise in sewing stretch fabrics and I prefer to sew simple garments – I make hoodies, jersey dresses, T-shirts, and women’s clothing. I get an order from the company and make some samples, usually in a size 10, 12 and 18. I send the samples over to the company, and they check the fit of the garment on their fit models. If there are any issues, they mark up the samples and send them back to me for adjustment. After doing the sampling, I receive the full order and a timeframe to finish the job. When I get an order done ahead of time, I get to take some time off!
I believe in being a responsible and reliable worker. If the company says there is something wrong, I’ll be there in half an hour to fix it. For me, it’s not about the money, it’s about whether my work looks good or not.