Morocco: Fairfood calls for living wage at European supermarkets' tomato suppliers; Ahold, Tesco & Sainsbury's respond

Fairfood's new report finds tomato workers supplying European supermarkets receive compensation below the living wage. We invited Ahold, Sainsbury's and Tesco to respond.  The companies' responses are provided below.

A commentary related to this issue was published in the Guardian here.


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14 November 2014

Commentary: Supermarkets deny allegations related to low wages of tomato pickers in Morocco

Author: Mayu Chang, CorpWatch Blog

"European Supermarkets Defend Low Wages To Moroccan Tomato Pickers", 12 Nov 2014

Tomato pickers in Morocco – who supply fresh produce during the winter to big European supermarket chains like Albert Heijn in the Netherlands and Sainsbury’s and Tesco in the UK – are paid poverty wages, according to a new report from Fairfood International...Fairfood points out that the major British and Dutch retailers wield even greater power over Morocco's agricultural workers since 90 percent of these Moroccan tomatoes are eventually sold in Europe, and 76 percent of fresh fruit and vegetables purchased in the Netherlands and nearly 90 percent in the UK are bought at supermarkets...The burden of these low wages falls disproportionately on women...In responses to the Fairfood report made to Business & Human Rights Resource Center, however, the retailers denied that they paid below minimum wage...Fairfood has started a campaign to lobby these European retailers to pay a living wage to workers in their supply chain. The NGO is working with Fédération Nationale du Secteur Agricole, a local agricultural union in Morocco, to help agricultural workers on the ground to speak up for their rights.

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27 October 2014

Supermarkets' struggle for economic survival must not come at expense of human rights

Author: Eniko Horvarth, The Guardian (UK)

Discount chains have knocked major European supermarkets off the top spot and their share prices have tumbled to a new low, fuelling a price war on key grocery items. Supermarkets are feeling the squeeze and this is resonating through their supply chains. But as the price of many consumers’ shopping baskets falls, it is important this does not come at the cost of human rights. In a recent report, Fairfood International raised concerns that tomato suppliers to European supermarkets, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Dutch supermarket Ahold, do not provide a living wage to workers on their fields. When Business & Human Rights Resource Centre brought these concerns to the companies’ attention, all three said that they paid at least the minimum wage and had existing commitments to improving working conditions in their supply chain...

So, as European supermarkets continue to fight for their economic survival, they must undertake due diligence throughout their supply chain to ensure their struggle to the top doesn’t become a race to the bottom for human rights.

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20 October 2014

Tesco's response to Fairfood rejoinder

Author: Tesco

Tesco stated that they felt there were a number of misleading points in Fairfood’s statement, but declined to comment further and said they would be taking them up directly with Fairfood.

NGO rejoinder
19 October 2014

Fairfood rejoinder calls on Tesco to ensure tomato workers in Morocco receive living wage

Author: Fairfood International

"News from Tesco and the issue of poverty wages in the Moroccan tomato sector", 9 Oct 2014

This week, Tesco publicly responded to Fairfood’s Morocco Report  –  which exposes the poverty wages paid to workers in the Moroccan tomato sector – in an online article published on Business Human Rights Resource Centre. This would seem to be encouraging news, as Tesco writes that it is committed to playing a role in improving the low wages paid to workers in Morocco. However, Tesco also admits that only 30% of the workers in their Moroccan tomato supply chain earn a living wage, but they are shockingly quiet about the remaining 70% of Moroccan tomato workers who do not earn a living wage...The good news is that Tesco also claims to be committed to playing their part in improving the low wages of workers in Morocco. We challenge Tesco to act now, to collaboratively compose an action plan to ensure that living wages are paid to all of its Moroccan tomato workers...As Tesco has now publicly communicated their commitment, we are convinced that they will soon confirm our latest request to schedule an in-person meeting to further discuss their living wage action plan for Moroccan tomato workers...

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Company response
14 October 2014

Ahold's response

Author: Ahold

We share Fairfood’s goal of improving working conditions in developing countries and have played an active role to improve working conditions in our supply chain...We mandate that all our suppliers adhere to our Standards of Engagement which require that all suppliers treat their employees fairly, with dignity and respect and in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations...To ensure that our standards are met we have implemented an audit program in countries that we have identified as high risk.  In these countries we ask our suppliers to undergo a third party audit based on the BSCI “Business Social Compliance Initiative” standards or equivalent. In addition to the audit program we regularly visit our suppliers. We have worked with our tomato supplier in Morocco for over six years. This supplier was audited in 2010 and then again in June 2014 according to the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI / SMETA), which is a BSCI equivalent standard.  The audit report confirmed that all workers received at least the SMAG (Salaire Minimum Agricole Garanti) which is the Moroccan minimum wage for agricultural workers. In addition higher rates are paid for overtime.

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7 October 2014

Full report

Author: Fairfood

"The fruits of their labour – The low wages behind Moroccan tomatoes sold in European supermarkets", Sep 2014

Fairfood International’s newest report exposes the poverty wages paid to workers in the Moroccan tomato sector. These tomatoes are picked and packed by tens of thousands of workers who do not receive a living wage for their arduous work. The fruit is then sold by European supermarkets who receive the lion’s share of the profits...The key issues in the report are:In winter, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Albert Heijn (part of Ahold) and other European supermarkets sell tomatoes which are sourced from Morocco;They are picked and packed by tens of thousands Moroccan workers, mainly female, who earn painfully low wages;Moroccan tomato pickers and packers earn between 5 and 8 Euros a day, while their costs of living are around 15 Euros a day. Therefore they are unable to make ends meet and must live in poverty;Supermarkets have the power and influence to determine what consumers buy, as well as how and under what conditions the food is produced;Fairfood calls upon supermarkets to take up their responsibility and to ensure a living wage for all their workers in their supply chains.

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Company response
7 October 2014

Sainsbury's response

We pride ourselves on sourcing our own brand products with integrity and take these matters very seriously. Our recent investigation confirms that our supplier pays not just the legal wage, but more than 20% above minimum wage to all workers. In addition, they are offered a range of benefits from medical and after school services, housing and free transportation in partnership with the union. This supplier is held up as a best practice example and responsible employer for our main multi-stakeholder program activity in Morocco, in which we collaborate with the Ethical Trading Initiative and an NGO.  For further information, Sainsbury’s takes the fair treatment of people working within our supply chains very seriously. We are founding members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). The ETI Base Code covers nine key principles, including safe and hygienic working conditions, no discrimination and payment of a fair wage. As standard practice Sainsbury’s own brand suppliers undertake a number of due diligence processes – including independent ethical audits to ensure that our high standards and the integrity of our products is being upheld at all times. We require our suppliers to comply with the Ethical Trading Initiative’s Base Code for ethical sourcing and investigate any allegations claiming otherwise.

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Company response
7 October 2014

Tesco's response

Tesco has a global team of 45 full-time locally based labour standards experts in sourcing regions around the world supporting suppliers to meet our standards, and we always seek to investigate concerns that are raised. Our lead ethical trade manager in Africa met with Fairfood in South Africa in June 2014 to better understand the issues they had identified. We felt that the concerns raised were significant, and the same colleague then travelled to Morocco to investigate them with our suppliers in detail. This included visits to the three suppliers working with Tesco mentioned in the report...The main focus of Fairfood’s report is wage levels. Tesco’s ethical trade manager assessed samples of worker payslips at each supplier. For transparency, of these samples: 100% were found to be paid above the Salaire Minimum Agricole Garanti (SMAG)...Three quarters were paid at least 50% more than SMAG (higher than the Salaire Minimum Interprofessionel Garanti (SMIG) mentioned in the Fairfood report)...30% were paid at or above the ‘living wage’ range cited in the report. Our findings in this regard therefore did not correlate with the generalised findings reported by Fairfood and we therefore do not believe them to be accurate about our supply chain. However we know that wages for many workers remain relatively low across the sector in Morocco, and collaborative efforts by retail customers, government authorities and other parties can help improve overall wage levels and other labour standards over time. We are committed to playing our role in this...

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