Investigation reports slave-live conditions on Australia's farms supplying supermarkets & fastfood chains; companies respond

Four Corners investigation has revealed labour exploitation, slave-like conditions and black market labour gangs on farms and in factories supplying Australia's biggest supermarkets and fast food chains. The report found that crime syndicates and labour hire contractors were exploiting Australia's 417 working holiday visa system, leading to foreign staff being abused, women being sexually harassed, and staff being paid low.

Companies' responses are provided in an article by the Sydney Morning Herald (linked below). 

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Article
7 May 2015

Australia: Evidence reveals slave-like conditions on farms & factories supplying Australia's supermarkets & fast food chains

Author: Caro Meldrum-Hanna, Ali Russell & Mario Christodoulo, ABC

"Labour exploitation, slave-like conditions found on farms supplying biggest supermarkets", 7 May 2015

Conclusive evidence of extreme labour exploitation, slave-like conditions and black market labour gangs has been found on farms and in factories supplying Australia's biggest supermarkets and fast food chains.

A Four Corners investigation has revealed the food being picked, packed and processed by exploited workers is being sold to consumers nationwide. The supermarkets involved include Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, IGA and Costco.

Fast food outlets KFC, Red Rooster and Subway are also implicated.

...Migrant workers from Asia and Europe are being routinely abused, harassed and assaulted at work, the Four Corners investigation found. Women are also being targeted sexually, with women being propositioned for sex and asked to perform sexual favours in exchange for visas.

...Four Corners has also found farmers and suppliers who play by the rules and pay workers correctly are being dropped by the supermarkets, who are instead awarding contracts and sourcing food from cheaper suppliers using grossly exploited labour.

...There are calls at a federal level for the supermarkets to stop shirking responsibility by passing accountability back to the suppliers and farmers.

*Sourced by RepRisk due diligence on ESG and business conduct risks, www.reprisk.com.

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Article
5 May 2015

Australia: Companies respond to report concerning supply chain worker exploitation

Author: Madeleine Heffernan, The Sydney Morning Herald

"Workplace watchdog aims for top of retailers' supply chain on worker exploitation", 5 May 2015

...Four Corners said crime syndicates and unscrupulous labour hire contractors were exploiting Australia's 417 working holiday visa system, leading to foreign staff being abused, women being sexually harassed, staff being paid as low as $3.95 an hour, and potentially millions of dollars stolen in back pay.

...Woolworths told the program its "supplier trading terms require that suppliers comply with all relevant laws and support ethical standards with regard to workplace safety, environment, and fair pay and employment conditions" and "Australian companies overwhelmingly obey the law including in relation to treatment of their employees".

Costco said it did "not condone the exploitation of any labourers" but it had "no reason to question the commitment of our suppliers identified". The retailer added it expected all of its suppliers to "comply with Australian law to ensure that their employees are legally allowed to work in this country and that they receive all their appropriate wages and entitlements".

Aldi told the program it was "not aware of any exploited labour allegations facing our suppliers and is concerned by this information".

...KC Fresh said it did not use illegal workers.

...Akers Farm...rejected suggestions its workers were abused.

D'VineRipe...and Covino Farms...said they had terminated their agreement with labour hire contractors amid allegations workers were underpaid.

...KFC Australia said...: "We absolutely do not condone the mistreatment of any worker – no matter where they are employed. KFC Australia conducts business in an ethical, legal and socially responsible way and that's what we expect of our suppliers too."

Red Rooster told the program "we fully expect our suppliers to commit to and comply with responsible labour-sourcing practices and the fair and equitable treatment of all workers and we are currently not aware of any supplier being in breach of their obligations in these areas".

*Sourced by RepRisk due diligence on ESG and business conduct risks, www.reprisk.com.

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