Coles has announced a new partnership with some of Australia’s biggest workers’ unions as part of a commitment to help ensure the retailer runs an ethical and sustainable fresh produce supply chain.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Australian Workers Union (AWU) have worked with the supermarket giant to develop the Coles Ethical Retail Supply Chain Accord to protect the rights of all workers regardless of visa or employment status.
Representatives from each organisation will meet regularly to discuss the investigation of complaints and hear from workers, with a particular focus on labour hire organisations, and farmers, who are responsible for around 95 per cent of the fresh produce Coles sells.
“Our farmers are among the hardest workers in Australia and so are the workers on their farms. It’s therefore important that we’re working with farmers, labour hire organisations, industry bodies like the National Farmers Federation, the unions, government and the broader industry to ensure the people who have grown, picked, packed, delivered and stacked this food are treated ethically and fairly,” Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said in a statement on Monday.
The announcement follows a lengthy dispute between rival supermarket Aldi and the TWU which resulted in a Federal Court case over what the retailer called a string of false and misleading claims.
The TWU has made a number of claims toward Aldi, including that it has unsafe working conditions and that drivers were ignored by management when concerns were raised.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the new partnership with Coles is an important step forward and will ensure workers have a voice to protect against abuses and exploitation.
“It will involve monitoring and co-operation on our parts, and we look forward to increasing our work together to ensure workers in the supply chain have rights and can exercise those rights,” he said.
Education and training will form a large part of The Accord’s work with initiatives such as training for migrant workers on arrival and education on worker guidelines, as well as investment into research on the social and economic benefits of ethical sourcing.
This story originally appeared on Inside FMCG.