19 July 2007 | Antony Barton
Tesco shareholders have voted against guaranteed decent working conditions and standards for its suppliers' employees.
At the supermarket chain's annual general meeting, 91 per cent of the equity holders voted against a War on Want proposal assuring a living wage, job security, and freedom of association and collective bargaining, including the right for a worker to join a trade union
of their choice.
Ben Birnberg, company secretary for the anti-poverty organisation and a Tesco shareholder, proposed the resolution. He referred to War on Want's Fashion Victims
report, which accused Tesco and other retailers of worker exploitation (News, 4 January
), and warned: "Voting against the resolution will be a sign of shareholder narrow self-interest and greed."
In its defence, Tesco's board said War on Want's report failed to provide evidence to support its claims. It added Tesco operated lengthy audits of labour standards by independent parties. It said social, economic and political instability in some countries meant it would be "impossible to uphold" guarantees. "It would lead to a requirement to withdraw from sourcing from these countries." See news focus