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Issue #1447      17 March 2010

“Britain’s supermarkets should hang their head in shame”

“Britain’s supermarkets should hang their heads in shame,” the Unite union’s deputy general secretary, Jack Dromey said last week, welcoming the damning indictment by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, in a forensic report into exploitation, undercutting and discrimination in the 88,000-strong meat industry, supplying red and white meat products to the nation’s supermarkets.

Mr Dromey continued: “Supermarkets have driven down costs along their supply chain with tens of thousands of workers paying the price, suffering discrimination and unfair treatment. A two-tier labour market has been created exploiting migrant agency workers on poorer conditions of employment and undercutting directly-employed workers on better conditions of employment.”

He said that that divides workforces and damages social cohesion in local communities. “Unite has fought for equal treatment of all workers and we welcome the call from the EHRC for workers doing the same job to be paid the same.”

Turning to the wider evidence of shocking abuse, Jack Dromey said “The EHRC report exposes labour practices in the supermarket supply chain that are an affront to human decency – physical and verbal abuse, a lack of health and safety protection, shameful treatment of pregnant women and a culture of fear. The report says, and rightly so, that there are reputable employers but they are undercut by the rogues.

“The customers of Britain’s supermarkets demand high standards and fair trade. All workers should be treated with respect. And there should be no second class citizen in 21st Century Britain.

“The EHRC is right to challenge all those with responsibility to act,” Mr Dromey concluded. “Supermarkets, suppliers, employment agencies, government, enforcement agencies and trade unions, we must all work together. We will be at the table rising to the challenge posed by this landmark Inquiry.”   

Next article – Garib fire survivors call for justice and a safe industry

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