In Brief

UK supermarkets ‘fuel poverty and abuse’, says Oxfam

New study highlights mistreatment of workers on farms and plantations

191010-supermarket.jpg

Farms and plantations supplying UK supermarkets are underpaying workers and abusing their human rights, according to Oxfam.

A new report from the charity warns that a “relentless” drive for profits among supermarkets including Lidl, Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons is fuelling poverty, abuse, and discrimination in their supply chains.

“Oxfam conducted research in India and Brazil, and surveyed workers in five other countries,” says the BBC.

Workers on 50 tea plantations in Assam told the researchers that cholera and typhoid are prevalent there because workers lack access to toilets and safe drinking water.

Half of those questioned receive government ration cards because they earn so little, and female workers said they regularly put in 13 hours of hard labour, adds The Guardian.

Meanwhile, workers on fruit farms in Brazil told Oxfam that they have developed skin conditions as a result of using pesticides without protection. “Women on those grape, melon and mango farms also said they had to rely on government handouts outside of harvest season,” says the BBC.

Oxfam’s ethical trade manager, Rachel Wilshaw, said: “Supermarkets’ relentless pursuit of profits continues to fuel poverty and human rights abuses in their supply chains.”

She is calling on the grocery giants to “do more to end exploitation, pay all their workers a living wage, ensure women get a fair deal and be more transparent about where they source their products”.

Responding to the Oxfam report, Tesco said: “We know there is more to do and we are working with NGOs, trade unions and others to improve wages in the key produce, tea and clothing sectors.”

An Aldi spokesperson said the chain continues “to work hard to ensure every person working in our supply chain is treated fairly and has their human rights respected”.

Speaking on behalf of the UK supermarket sector, Peter Andrews, head of sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Supermarkets in the UK are spearheading actions aimed at improving the lives of the millions of people across the globe who contribute to the retail supply chain.”

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