The pay and conditions of women in South Africa producing fruit for Tesco have barely improved since ActionAid first drew attention to the issue four years ago, the charity said today.
Jenny Ricks, ActionAid Campaigner said: "Tesco has increased its ethical checks in response to campaigning pressure from ActionAid. This is a good step forward, but it has not yet translated into real improvements in women’s lives. Tesco promised to ensure workers are paid a living wage. Now it’s time for them to deliver. The next step is to set up a pilot project to bring pay and conditions up to acceptable standards on an initial group of farms."
The charity is reminding Tesco’s board of the promises it made to farmworker Gertruida Baartman, who has twice come to the company’s AGM to ask the board directly why her pay and conditions are so poor.
South African workers like Gertruida are struggling to feed and clothe their children on poverty wages. Campaigners are calling for a living wage to be paid.
The supermarket chain, which made £3 billion profit last year, is currently facing accusations about union-busting at its US subsidiary Fresh and Easy, and about the pay and conditions of foreign agency workers at its meat and poultry suppliers in the UK. The annual general meeting (Friday 3 July) will provide an opportunity for concerned shareholders to raise questions about the treatment of workers at Tesco's subsidiaries and suppliers.
The actor James Purefoy, who met women workers in South Africa with ActionAid in May, said: "It’s outrageous that Tesco’s profits are topping £3 billion, when I met women in South Africa who were being paid £22 a week to pick the fruit that ends up on our supermarket shelves. As consumers shouldn't we expect the people at the sharp end of the supply chain to be getting a better deal than that?."
ActionAid argues that Tesco could make a massive difference to workers' lives without raising prices for consumers or losing significant profits. Workers currently get just three pence out of every pound that British consumers spend in Tesco on South African apples.
Notes to Editors:
- Media contacts: Tony Durham, Senior Media Officer on 020 7561 7636 or Susan Mearns, Celebrity Coordinator on 020 7561 7632.
- Information about ActionAid's recent Tesco campaign
- James Purefoy is a British actor famous for his roles in the films 'A Knight's Tale', 'Vanity Fair' and 'Resident Evil'. He also starred in several period dramas including the HBO/BBC television series 'Rome' playing Mark Antony and issues-based dramas 'Diamonds' and 'The Summit'. This year sees him star in epic adventure film 'Solomon Kane' based on the stories by Robert E. Howard, creator of 'Conan the Barbarian'. He has just finished filming 'The Philanthropist' for NBC which is a drama series based on the life of a billionaire who uses his money and influence to help people in need.
- He took a break from filming the show to visit women farm workers living on poverty wages in the Western Cape of South Africa. His fact-finding visit highlighted the problems and challenges that women fruit pickers and packers face and how UK supermarkets giants like Tesco, major buyers of the fruit, are having a devastating effect on their lives. Spending 80% of their income on food and struggling to get by on poverty wages, these women are being hit by the double impact of the financial and food crises in the developing world.