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13 Nov 2019

Martin Farrer, The Guardian

Australia: Campaigners put forward resolution urging Coles to protect workers from 'modern slavery practices'

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"Supermarket firm Coles urged to help protect farm workers from 'modern slavery'", 12 November 2019

...Coles must act to protect workers from “modern slavery” practices in its...fresh food supply chain, according to a resolution being put to shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting...

... campaigners are demanding that the company has to “protect its interests and reputation” by bringing the treatment of thousands of workers into line with its “ethical sourcing policies and supplier requirements”.

Campaigners say there are up to 15,000 workers employed in slavery-like conditions in Australia, with problems including severe underpayment, withholding of wages, excessive overtime and threats of physical and sexual violence.

The Australian fresh food sector, in which Coles and its rival Woolworths buy up around 70% of the market, is seen as one of the worst culprits.

The resolution, which has been brought by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, says best practice should incorporate core principles of “worker-driven social responsibility”. It says workers should be consulted about which suppliers are used and they should be allowed to have unions involved in labour rights education and grievance procedures...

...Guardian Australia approached Coles for comment.