The Retail Supply Chain Alliance and Coles Outline Horticultural Ethical Supply Chain Approach

The Retail Supply Chain Alliance and Coles Outline Horticultural Ethical Supply Chain Approach
PHOTO: The darker side to production horticulture in our region has been brought to light by the Retail Supply Chain Alliance and Coles who demand an end to worker exploitation.

 

BERRY pickers, farmers, suppliers, and retailers attended a packed meeting in Coffs Harbour where the Retail Supply Chain Alliance (RSCA) called for an end to worker exploitation in production horticulture.

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It is common for workers, often visitors to Australia or new migrants, on farms such as blueberry, raspberries and garlic farms, to be paid a rate per kilo and that rate can fluctuate.

The reality for workers is they can be paid as little as three dollars an hour.

Further exploitation through accommodation and visa sponsorship can make it even more difficult for workers to speak out.

The Retail Supply Chain Alliance, made up of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), the Transport Workers’ Union, and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, partnered with Coles to host the meeting last week outlining a new approach to end decades of underpayment and worker abuse and raise standards in the mid north coast region and across Australia.

“This is an industry which has been allowed to exploit vulnerable workers for far too long but we can bring an end to this,” AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said.

“We have demonstrated there is real demand for change – from the major supermarkets, shoppers and from the good farmers out there who are already doing the right thing by their workers.

“We need to expose the shonky employers, and expel dodgy labour hire operators that are currently getting away with paying people a few bucks an hour for backbreaking work.

“We need to work with suppliers to ensure we have a truly ethical supply chain.” he said.

The Alliance has confirmed many workers are currently earning far less than the minimum wage due to being paid piece rates – where they are paid for how much they pick.

Speakers at the event at the Coffs Harbour Showground included farm workers who gave first hand accounts of being exploited and underpaid due to the piece rate system which the Alliance is calling to be overhauled and made fairer.

Some of these stories were shocking and harrowing – with workers showing great courage in speaking up – with the accounts showing why the sector must be urgently brought to heel.

Mr Walton said the AWU and the Retail Supply Chain Alliance would do all it can to improve pay and conditions for Australian fruit and veg workers, but that it needed their support to deliver lasting change.

“We know that it is often difficult for people in low paying jobs to speak up against their employers but unless we start to expose these operators, they will continue to get away with murder,” he said.

“The Alliance unions are there to help, to come in and investigate, to prosecute these employers on workers’ behalf and improve pay and conditions.”

 

BY Sandra MOON

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