3 July 2009 | Allie Anderson
Tesco faces allegations over "exploitation and discrimination" of migrant workers in its meat supply chain.
Britain's biggest union, Unite said it had presented evidence to Tesco that migrant agency employees in the company's UK and Ireland supply chain were subjected to tough working conditions and paid less than permanent indigenous employees.
Tesco said the allegations were "unfounded" and it audits suppliers against robust labour standards. The accusations will be brought before Tesco shareholders at their annual general meeting today (Friday July 3) where Unite will also push for the supermarket giant to appoint a non-executive board member to ensure against discrimination in its supply chain. Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, said: "The exploitation of migrant agency workers and undercutting of indigenous workers divides workplaces, damages community social cohesion and fuels racism. "Tesco, with Unite, jointly commissioned an independent report proving a two-tier labour market in the company's supply chain. Tesco then walked away from the table."
A Tesco spokesman told SM: "Our suppliers are independent businesses. But we apply - and audit against - robust standards for how all workers should be treated, regardless of their employment status or nationality.
"Unite should not be making unfounded allegations against responsible businesses or suggesting that Tesco has walked away from a cross-industry endeavour, which is not the case." Unite's claims have prompted the Equality and Human Rights Commission to conduct its first statutory enquiry into discrimination and employment abuse in the UK meat supply industry.