An alliance of unions representing transport, farm and retail workers will work with one of Australia’s largest supermarket chains, Coles, to address worker exploitation and risks to safety in the Australian fresh food industry.
Coles has committed to work with the Transport Workers’ Union, the Australian Workers’ Union and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association to pursue safe and fair conditions for workers across its fresh produce and meat supply chains. The three unions will co-operate to organise transport, farm and retail workers to address worker exploitation and risks to health and safety. The move has been announced at TWU National Council in Cairns today.
It follows two agreements with the TWU last year that cover the Coles transport supply chain and delivery work in the on-demand economy. The agreement promotes transparency and end-to-end compliance with the Coles supply chains.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said: “Worker exploitation in any part of the Australian fresh food supply chain is not acceptable. Underpayment of wages and superannuation and unsafe working conditions must be addressed. Coles has been working with the TWU to ensure safety and fairness in road transport and it has shown its commitment to continue to work with its supply chains to ensure that all workers are treated in accordance with Australian workplace legislation.”
Coles head of quality and responsible sourcing James Whittaker said: “Coles is committed to the safety and fair treatment of all the workers in our supply chains, as per our Ethical Sourcing Policy and Supplier Requirements. Our local Australian suppliers and workers are critical to the provision of fresh, quality produce and meat to our customers. We have made significant progress in the past 10 years on our Ethical Sourcing journey, and now look forward to working with these three unions.”
AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said: “Workers in the fresh food industry can be vulnerable and we look forward to working with Coles and the TWU and SDA to protect the rights of these workers.”
SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer said: “Workers in retail stores and retail warehouses currently enjoy protections under union-negotiated Enterprise Agreements. We want to ensure all workers in the fresh food industry are aware of their rights and have the power to exercise those rights. This alliance will mean more workers can be reached in the supply chain to ensure their voices are heard and the exploitation stops.’
This work with Coles is part of an ongoing program of engagement with Australian retailers to pursue safe and fair conditions throughout the supply chain and the announcement last year by the TWU and SDA of an Online Retail and Delivery Alliance to organise workers in Amazon.
A Fair Work Ombudsman inquiry last November highlighted the need for compliance and accountability throughout the fresh produce and meat processing supply chains. Inspectors recovered more than $1 million in unpaid wages for over 2,500 workers.