Most of us shop in British supermarkets, and we’d rather all the goods that stock supermarket shelves were made by people who get a fair wage and have decent working conditions, but all too often this isn’t the case.
The majority of the time the true cost is passed on to the women who pick and pack the goods that line supermarket shelves. They end up poorly paid and easily exploited.
We’ve been campaigning for a watchdog to regulate supermarket power since 2007, and we’re almost there.
The campaign so far...
Back then Gertruida Baartman, a South African worker on one of Tesco’s farms, went to their AGM and told shareholders: "I don't get paid enough to feed my children and I have to work with pesticides with my bare hands. I am here today to ask Tesco what it is going to do about my problem?"
Through campaigning with farm workers like Gertruida we’ve made some progress, but to regulate all supermarkets we must have a strong watchdog. Supermarkets are demanding lower prices, faster delivery times, and greater flexibility from suppliers.
The Competition Commission investigates...
The Competition Commission found that big retailers consistently use practices like:
- Delaying payments to suppliers – a practice that can push small companies out of business, and people out of work;
- Reducing the agreed price of an order after it’s been delivered;
- Requiring payments from suppliers when supermarket profits are not as big as expected;
- Requiring suppliers to contribute to the cost of opening a new store;
- Changing orders at the last minute – for example, demanding different packaging and forcing suppliers to pick up the cost.
These and other unfair practices can mean farm workers get laid off or have to work extra hours with no notice, work on short term contracts with little security, are exposed to dangerous pesticides that damage their health, and can’t afford education or a decent start for their children.