Government needs to support the welfare of supply chain workers, says British Retail Consortium
The comments follow reports of incidents of labour abuse in the supply chains of two Italian food giants that supply British supermarkets
- Emma Featherstone
- Thursday 26 October 2017 13:32 BST
The Independent Online
Tinned tomatoes on British supermarket shelves may contain tomatoes picked migrant workers facing labour abuses Thomas Martinsen / Unsplash
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has urged the Government to do more to ensure the welfare of supply chain workers, following reports earlier this week of labour abuses at factories that supply British supermarkets.
Earlier this week, The Guardian reported incidents of labour abuse in the supply chains of two Italian food giants – Mutti and Conserve Italia – which supply major British supermarkets with tinned tomatoes and passata.
The investigation involved fruit picking workers and reportedly began with the death of a Sudanese farm worker in the fields of Nardó, Southern Italy. The farm worker was reportedly hired under a so-called gangmaster system, that is in operation across the country’s agricultural sector, under which migrants are put into labour groups, which are then hired by Italian landowners.
Supply chain transparency is key to ending worker exploitation
Peter Andrews, head of sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said in a statement: “This is a tragic case and we expect the Italian authorities to carry out a full investigation. Where laws have been broken we expect the perpetrators to be brought to justice.”
Mr Andrews added that the welfare of workers in supply chains was of upmost importance and that BRC members would investigate any allegations of malpractice. He said that retailers in the UK put in place mechanisms to protect their supply chains, including codes of conduct and training, but that this needs to be supported by “effective government enforcement of labour standards”.
The Guardian reported that Italian prosecutor Paola Guglielmi had said that Mutti and Conserve Italia’s brand Cirio have been benefitting from “conditions of absolute exploitation” in the country’s multibillion-pound tomato industry.
It reported that court documents had shown that migrants had been forced to work for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, on minimal wage, with no access to medical care picking fruit that would be used in the goods of companies supplying to supermarkets around the world.
Neither Mutti nor Conserve Italia was immediately available for comment when contacted by The Independent.