Supermarkets must stamp out migrant abuse, says Unite

The UK’s biggest trade union has called on supermarkets to take responsibility for ensuring there is no abuse of migrant workers in their supply chains.

Speaking after the publication of a new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which revealed that migrant workers have experienced explotation in the food industry, Unite said that supermarkets must take action to ensure that abuse is stamped out. It also called on the government to get tough about implementing legislation for the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA).

Unite’s national officer for the food sector Jennie Formby said: “One of the key ways to ensure workers get decent treatment and protection from exploitation is for trade unions to organise at these workplaces.

“The fact that these companies will all be supplying supermarkets makes it imperative that senior supermarket executives should be scrutinising those firms supplying their chains of stores for abuses.

“This report confirms our fears and makes it even more important that when ministers come to legislate on its supermarket code, there must be no dilutions or watering-down – the rot in the supply chain starts at the top, and causes the horrific abuses that we have long campaigned against.”

The report, Experiences of forced labour in the UK food industry, was based on in-depth interviews with 62 migrant workers (mainly Polish, Chinese, Latvian and Lithuanian) across five locations (London, Liverpool, south-west England, Lincolnshire and east-central Scotland). Although it was unclear whether the explotation was severe enough to constitute forced labour, the authors concluded that the evidence indicated that employers were “infringing many rights”.

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