Charity claims victory over stores abuse

9 May 2012 - 4:45pm
Press release

‘Bill for supermarkets watchdog must have teeth'

The charity War on Want today welcomed the new bill for a supermarkets adjudicator announced in the Queen's speech, but demanded tough powers for the ombudsman.

War on Want has been at the forefront of the campaign for a rigorous watchdog over supermarkets to stop them exploiting workers in developing countries supplying goods for their stores.

During recent times its research has exposed abuse in countries such as Colombia, India, Kenya and South Africa.

Earlier, in 2005, War on Want launched a report which revealed how Asda squeezed its banana suppliers.

Murray Worthy, campaigns officer at the charity, said: “It is great news that the government is finally putting forward long-overdue regulation to curb supermarket abuses. It is now vital that this watchdog has enough teeth to end the exploitation in supermarkets' supply chains.”

War on Want says that supermarkets wield unprecedented power on a global scale, dictating the terms at which overseas producers are forced to sell their goods.

And with threats to find new suppliers, supermarkets force prices down in many of the world's poorest countries.

According to the charity, workers who produce these goods face terrible working conditions and little or no trade union rights.
Despite working up to 80 hours a week, many workers are not able to earn a living wage.

War on Want has published groundbreaking research into supermarkets' exploitation of their suppliers, and works in partnership with grassroots organisations around the globe who directly support these workers.

NOTE TO EDITORS

  • In 2008 the Competition Commission's final report from a two-year inquiry into the grocery market concluded that supermarkets' abuse of buyer power had an adverse effect on competition and if left unaddressed would be against consumer interests. It recommended a strengthened Groceries Supply Code of Practice and an independent Ombudsman for enforcement.
  • In a tilt at Tesco, the charity was the first group to exploit the opportunities created by the 2006 Companies Act. The legislation required firms to send all shareholders any resolution from a shareholder with support from at least 100 other shareholders who each held an average of 2,000 shares. War on Want's company secretary gained backing from more than 100 shareholders who spoke for an average of almost 13,000 shares each. As a result Tesco was forced to circulate his resolution that demanded supplier factories underwent independent auditing to ensure decent pay and conditions for employees. The resolution – the first from an individual shareholder to be voted on at a Tesco AGM – won support representing over 400 million shares, including the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, which held close to a million shares. In a historic revolt, one in five shareholders refused to endorse Tesco's recommendation to vote down the resolution.

A Living Wage for Workers

The right to be paid a living wage is a basic entitlement of all working people the world over, whether they work in the public or private sectors, in the global South or North.

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