Tesco profits at expense of poor

Corporate Muscle outside Tesco

British supermarkets are currently exploiting women workers and small scale farmers in poor countries.

Gertruida Baartman, pictured here, is 39 and a single mother with three children. She earns just 38p per hour picking fruit that ends up on Tesco's shelves.

ActionAid is working with our South African partner organisation Women on Farms, who are fighting for the rights of local women fruit-pickers.

In 2006, ActionAid hosted Gertruida in the UK to ask a question at Tesco’s AGM. At the AGM, Gertruida said: "I don't get paid enough to feed my children and I have to work with pesticides with my bare hands. I don't get the same wages as other men even if I do the same work. I am here today to ask Tesco what it is going to do about my problem?"

Following the AGM, Tesco decided to change the way it audits fruit farms throughout the country. It will now conduct social and labour audits each year through an independent scheme. The brave and courageous campaigning by Gertruida and other women workers in South Africa has made this change happen, supported by Target Poverty campaigners in the UK.

Our research shows that women such as Gertruida are paid poverty wages, face hunger and work in hazardous conditions. Their exploitation is largely caused by low prices and tougher standards being forced on local fruit farmers by buyers such as Tesco.

  • Low wages
    "I get £32.50 every two weeks. I can't afford school fees for my daughters or go to school functions or buy school uniforms." Tawana Fraser (fruit picker)
  • Bad housing
    "I sleep on the floor on a plastic sheet…there's no water or electricity and the walls are made of cardboard." Gloria Nzama (fruit picker)
  • Pesticide exposure
    "We have no gloves or protective clothing and we have to climb wet ladders and pick pears from the trees while they're still wet from pesticides." Tawana Fraser (fruit picker)

ActionAid will continue to work alongside campaign groups such as the Women on Farms Project to ensure Tesco sticks to its commitments, and to ensure wider improvements for the rights and working conditions of women working in supply chains to UK companies across the developing world.

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