Media release

ACCR: NUW report shows supermarkets must do more to manage exploitation in farm supply chains

A new report released today by the National Union of Workers (NUW), which describes the extreme exploitation of migrant workers who are working in Australian supermarket supply chains, demonstrates that Coles and Woolworths’ current approaches to managing supply chain risks are failing.

The report is based on surveys of 655 migrant workers who pick and pack fruit and vegetables on farms across Australia. The report identified 26 separate farm sites which are confirmed suppliers of Coles and Woolworths, and another 49 sites which are believed to be Coles and Woolworths suppliers.

The surveyed workers described poor and difficult working conditions, insecure and unpredictable work, below minimum wages, dodgy contractor and subcontractor models, the exploitation of undocumented workers, racism and discrimination, and abusive bosses.

These issues have been highlighted in numerous investigations and exposes, since the ABC first broke the story of modern slavery and labour abuses on Australian farms back in 2014. Almost 5 years later, workers on Australian farms continue to report the exact same issues.

ACCR has been engaging with both Coles and Woolworths on issues of supply chain due diligence since 2017, including through the filing of shareholder resolutions with Woolworths in 2017 and 2018. ACCR has continually highlighted that both companies are falling short of industry best-practice for supply chain due diligence and compliance.

A growing number of Coles and Woolworths’ peer companies globally are adopting worker-driven social responsibility initiatives to manage ongoing compliance in their supply chains. These initiatives actively involve workers and their unions in labour rights education and grievance procedures.

As a signatory to the global Worker-driven Social Responsibility Network, ACCR calls on Woolworths and Coles to work together with the National Union of Workers to develop a truly multi-stakeholder approach to addressing risks of modern slavery and labour abuses in their horticultural supply chains.

With the Modern Slavery Act coming into force this year, companies are under increased pressure to manage labour rights risks in their supply chains.

ACCR is currently considering filing shareholder resolutions on the issue of supply chain management with Coles and Woolworths this year.