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Oxfam reveals poverty pay, harsh working conditions & gender discrimination in intl. supermarkets' food supply chains; Includes company responses

Oxfam has released new research, which included in-depth interviews with workers in India and Brazil and a survey of workers in five other countries, revealing widespread labour rights allegations - including poverty pay, harsh working conditions, and gender discrimination - in food production linked to international supermarket supply chains as part of its Behind the Barcodes campaign.

Interviews with workers on 50 tea plantations in Assam revealed that cholera and typhoid are prevalent because workers lack access to toilets and safe drinking water. Half the workers questioned receive ration cards from the government because wages are so low and women workers, who are often in the lowest paid most labour-intensive jobs, regularly clocked up 13 hours of back breaking work a day. On fruit farms in North East Brazil, women with children said they were forced to rely on relatives or government support to feed their families outside the harvest season. Workers also reported developing allergies and serious skin diseases as a result of using pesticides and other chemicals without adequate protection. 

In October 2019, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the supermarkets named in the reports to respond to the allegations and Oxfam's recommendations. Albertsons, Aldi North, Aldi South, Kroger, Morrisons, REWE Group, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Walmart, and Whole Foods Market responded and their responses are included below.

Edeka Group, Lidl and Plus did not respond. Costco declined to comment.

Albert Heijn (a subsidiary of Ahold Delhaize) and Jumbo were named by Oxfam as having made significant and meaningful commitments on workers’ rights. Jumbo sent us documents (in Dutch) outlining its due diligence process, linked below. 

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