The cut flower industry
Flower workers in developing countries like Kenya and Colombia risk their health for unsafe, insecure jobs supplying UK supermarkets. In our 2007 report Growing Pains War on Want investigated the human cost of the cut flowers sold in British supermarkets.
Our research exposed how workers, mainly women, in Colombia and Kenya supplying those flowers to the supermarkets face wages as low as half a living wage, health problems such as disabling repetitive strain injuries and miscarriages through exposure toxic to pesticides.
Supermarkets sell around 70% of all the flowers bought in the UK - the highest proportion in Europe. Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury's all source from one or both of these countries, and have enormous power over flower producers and ultimately the health and safety of workers.
Many UK businesses have adopted voluntary standards for their suppliers, but these are still failing to protect the health and safety of workers or ensure basic workers’ rights. War on Want believes government regulation is necessary to introduce binding legislation tohold companies in the UK to account for the impacts in their supply chains. Workers supplying multinational companies in the UK should have the right to redress in the UK; the ability to seek compensation for damage to their health or loss of earnings as the result of actions of UK companies and their suppliers.
Much of the pressure on workers wages and conditions comes from supermarkets squeezing their suppliers, which is why we are calling for the government to set up a strong supermarket watchdog to tackle supermarkets’ abuses.