Years of campaigning by ActionAid and its supporters have finally come to fruition as the government has agreed on a Supermarket Watchdog that can effectively protect suppliers from the bullying business practices of supermarkets.
Despite fierce lobbying by supermarkets, the government has opted for a watchdog (Groceries Code Adjudicator) which will have real teeth: the power to levy fines on supermarkets that treat suppliers unfairly.
Beverley Duckworth, Policy & Campaigns Director for anti-poverty agency ActionAid says: “We warmly welcome the announcement that the Groceries Code Adjudicator will be able to fine supermarkets who breech the code from day one. Stronger penalties for supermarkets who abuse their market power is a crucial step in getting fairer treatment for the thousands of farm workers, here and overseas, who grow, pick and pack the goods we see on our supermarket shelves. ActionAid congratulates Jo Swinson on making sure the new watchdog has the teeth to effectively hold supermarkets to account.”
The watchdog will regulate British supermarkets, not suppliers in other countries. Supermarkets make billions in profits, but many of the farm workers in poor countries – mostly women – who grow the fruit and veg on supermarkets shelves work in shocking conditions for extremely low pay.
Governments in developing countries have the main responsibility for ensuring workers’ rights are respected. But when supermarkets buy goods produced in poor countries, they should ensure their own business practices don’t make it harder for suppliers to ensure decent pay and working conditions.
The Supermarket Watchdog will protect farmers and other suppliers from supermarkets that:
- Lower agreed prices after an order has been delivered.
- Change orders at the last minute, and make suppliers pick up the cost.
- Delay payments to producers – a practice that can push them out of business.
- Make suppliers pay for goods that are shoplifted out of stores.
- Make suppliers top up supermarkets’ profits when they’re lower than expected.