Major grocery stores in the United Kingdom are selling fruit and vegetables from Spanish farms where workers face systematic abuse, according to a new report by Ethical Consumer.
The report calls on U.K.-based retailers to take immediate action to ensure workers’ rights are protected.
Flagrant abuse on Spanish farms
Migrants working on farms in the southern provinces of Almeria and Huelva are being routinely denied eight out of nine basic workers’ rights, according to the U.K. not-for-profit cooperative. Common violations include forced labor, sexual assault, unsafe working conditions, wages below the legal minimum, excessive working hours and discrimination.
For 20 years, migrant agricultural workers in the Almeria and Huelva regions of southern Spain have faced flagrant abuses of their basic rights. They have been refused legal wages, fired for joining unions, forced to work in unsafe conditions, shouted at for taking toilet breaks and sexually assaulted and harassed.
The report names major grocery store chains, Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Waitrose.
What can retailers do?
The significant purchasing power of these retailers gives them the potential to influence their suppliers and create real change for workers, the report argues.
However, so far, the companies have failed to take adequate action. Policies aimed at improving conditions in supply chains generally only apply to direct suppliers and voluntary schemes are failing to guarantee basic rights for farm workers.
The report makes a series of important recommendations for U.K. retailers. Eurofruit reports:
[Recommendations include] amending supply chain policies to apply workers’ rights requirements to all suppliers rather than only direct suppliers; publishing names and addresses of all supplier farms, including those beyond direct suppliers; and extending audits to suppliers throughout the supply chain for agricultural produce originating in these regions of Spain, including off-site worker interviews, ensuring that no management is present.
The report also stresses the importance of supporting the development of Worker-Driven Social Responsibility mechanisms. These systems enable workers to outline the conditions they want to see on farms for retailers to then make legally-binding commitments to only source from suppliers that meet those standards.
Raise your voice for supply chain justice
The Freedom United community is calling on U.S. Congress, U.K. Parliament, European institutions and all governments and regional blocs to pass mandatory human rights due diligence laws, so that the private and public sectors are required to take responsibility for the impact of modern slavery and all other human rights abuses across their supply chains. Join us today!