Ending Exploitation in Supermarket Supply Chains

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:20 pm on 18th October 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities) 1:20 pm, 18th October 2018

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I totally agree with him.

Taking Indian tea and Kenyan green beans as examples, the research by Oxfam found that workers and small-scale farmers earned less than 50% of what they needed for a basic but decent standard of living in their societies. The report also found that the gap between the reality and a decent standard of living was greatest where women provided the majority of the labour. In South Africa, over 90% of surveyed women workers on grape farms reported not having enough to eat in the previous month. Nearly a third of them said that they or a family member had gone to bed hungry at least once in that time.

In Thailand, over 90% of surveyed workers at seafood processing plants reported going without enough food in the previous month. In Italy, 75% of surveyed women workers on fruit and vegetable farms said that they or a family member had cut back on the number of meals in the previous month because their household could not afford sufficient food. In less than five days, the highest paid chief executive at a UK supermarket earns the same as a woman picking grapes on a typical farm in South Africa will earn in her entire lifetime. That is simply not good enough.

Large UK supermarkets lack sufficient policies to protect the human rights of the people they rely on to produce our food. Supermarkets need to act on human and labour rights, support a living wage and radically improve transparency of their own human rights and those of their suppliers. This is vital if our supermarket supply chains are not to be a breeding ground for trafficking. We must be persistent on this matter. Unfortunately, we cannot depend on supermarkets to do this on their own. We need the Government to enforce compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2015. They must set out how they will measure decent work practices, reform company law and support the adoption of a binding United Nations treaty on business and human rights.