S. Africa: 'Appalling' working & living conditions in wine supply chain allegedly linked to pressures from leading Dutch supermarkets, incl. company comments

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Article
11 March 2020

Supermarkets take action after SOMO investigation into labour conditions in South African wine industry supplying to Dutch market

Author: SOMO

"Supermarkets take action after ‘Pressing Issues’ research", 1 Feb 2020

Following the investigation by SOMO and its South African partner TCOE into the labour conditions on South African wine companies, Dutch supermarkets Jumbo and Albert Heijn announced improvements.

Albert Heijn (Ahold) indicated it wanted to make a “deep due diligence dive” on South African wine in 2020. What exactly this means is still unknown.

Jumbo also acknowledged that “wine from South Africa has greater risks in terms of human rights in both grape growing and wine production”. But its approach is disappointing: it only mentions the South African improvement initiative WIETA, which is not sufficiently effective in the eyes of our South African partners.

However, WIETA announced that its new assessment method – recently introduced to rank companies from good to bad – will be better highlighted and will take action where necessary. WIETA has also promised to share audit reports with Albert Heijn from now on.

In addition, CSAAWU – the South African trade union we work with – has indicated that during recent negotiations, the wine company Groot Constantia finally committed itself to improving working conditions. The study, in which SOMO was involved, may have provided the final push.

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Report
28 January 2020

Pressing issues: South African wine farms and the responsibility for due diligence by Dutch supermarkets

Author: SOMO & Trust for Community Outreach and Education

... [T]he vast majority of agriculture workers [on South African wine farms] do not earn enough money to make a decent living. Exposure to pesticides seriously compromises their health. Workers depend on farmers for housing, which is generally substandard. Moreover, workers who try to organise themselves and stand up for their rights often face serious obstacles...

This study shows the need for Dutch supermarkets to shoulder their responsibilities regarding human rights and labour rights abuses in the supply chain of wines from South Africa, and to start due diligence practices... [T]he Netherlands is a very important market for South African wine, and supermarkets are the most powerful players in this supply chain...

SOMO researchers spoke to workers and union representatives in South Africa, visited farms and vineyards, researched concrete links between vineyards and Dutch supermarkets, and asked six supermarkets in the Netherlands about their policies and practices regarding wines from South Africa. All of the researched supermarkets were invited to read and comment on the draft report...

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