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3 Nov 2023

Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed, BNN,

Germany: NGOs file complaint under Supply Chain Act against two supermarket chains over alleged labour rights abuses on plantations in Ecuador and Costa-Rica

"Oxfam Accuses German Supermarkets of Human Rights Violations: A Test for the Supply Chain Act"

International aid organisation Oxfam has lodged a complaint against German supermarket heavyweights Rewe and Edeka with the German Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (Bafa), alleging human rights abuses on Latin American banana and pineapple plantations. The accusation asserts a disregard for evidence of low wages, deplorable working conditions, and suppression of trade unions. Despite competitors Aldi and Lidl addressing these concerns, Edeka and Rewe remain aloof, claims Oxfam.

Accusations Amplified by Other Organizations

The charge against the German supermarkets is bolstered by other entities including the Ecuadorian plantation workers union Astac, the Catholic relief organisation Misereor, and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. Spotlighting labour and human rights violations in Ecuador and Costa Rica, the complaint paints a grim picture of workers grappling with starvation wages and forced labour amidst the toxic fumes of pesticide sprays. Union members daring to voice these atrocities allegedly face termination or ill-treatment.

Companies Defend With Certifications

Contrarily, the accused supermarkets rely on certifications and seals of approval as their defence, asserting their commitment to preserving human rights throughout harvest and production. However, this assertion has been called into question by the accusing organisations. They posit that suppliers manipulate company controls by selectively questioning workers pre-approved by plantation owners, casting doubt on the validity of these certifications and seals. [...]

The supermarket chains reject the allegations made. Edeka confirmed that they received corresponding information by Oxfam via their reporting platform. However, following an investigation, these had not been confirmed with regards to EDEKA's partner firms. REWE also strongly disagrees with Oxfam's statements and argues it has already taken numerous measures together with its suppliers and is also in dialogue with Oxfam.

Part of the following timelines

Complaints under the German Supply Chain Act

Bananenplantagen in Ecuador und Costa Rica: Mutmaßliche Arbeitsrechtsverstöße in Lieferketten deutscher Supermärkte; inkl. Antworten der Unternehmen

Implementation of the German Supply Chain Act