Australia: Members of govt. working group seek ways "to hold supermarkets to account" for reported labour abuses in supply chains

Author: Brynn O’Brien and Martijn Boersma, Supply Chains Working Group (Australia), in Guardian (UK), Published on: 12 May 2015

"Cracking down on migrant workers isn't how to hold supermarkets to account", 5 May 2015

Supply chains that deliver everyday products to our fridges and tables can link unsuspecting consumers to labour and human rights abuses. Supply chain transparency is a better answer to the issue of worker abuse than “cracking down” on visas, which can make workers more vulnerable to exploitation.

Four Corners’ investigation of labour exploitation in Australian fresh food supply chains showed that the issue is not limited to goods sourced abroad. Abusive working conditions can and do affect workers in Australia...[Across] a broad cross-section of the fresh food supply chain: through picking, processing and packing, migrant workers were vulnerable to everything from underpayment to sexual assault...

[Tough] talk, farm raids and visa crackdowns can result in further marginalisation for workers... And how does this approach address exploitation in a supply chain? How does it hold the supermarket giants, like Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, to account?

...Companies know that supply chain exploitation is a problem. Many adopt responsible procurement guidelines, but this often has the effect of merely pushing responsibility onto their suppliers. And supply chain scandals persist, proving that the current emphasis on corporate voluntarism falls dramatically short.

...International approaches are informative on this point. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights make clear that companies are required to know the human rights impacts of their supply chains, and need to show that they know.

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Related companies: Aldi Süd Coles Group Wesfarmers Woolworths Group Australia