Closer to home than you might think

16 March 2010
Jake KanterPicture workers in your supply chain being mistreated: beaten, discriminated, humiliated and even scared. Now imagine those people working down the road. There is a danger that these issues can seem removed, confined to far-flung developing nations. Although no less serious, this behaviour often goes unnoticed and buyers are caught unaware. We reported on a classic example of this yesterday when Wal-Mart was targeted by a campaign group alleging that factory workers at some of its suppliers in India were not receiving the full minimum wage. This story was about staff not being paid properly, but yesterday a story about substandard treatment at UK factories highlighted even poorer practices. According to findings from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a number of workers in factories supplying meat to some the UK’s biggest supermarkets are suffering “widespread mistreatment and exploitation”. Staff claim to have been pushed, kicked and even had products such as frozen hamburgers thrown at them by line managers. Verbal abuse was also said to be a daily occurrence. The retailers responsible for these vendors have not done enough to flush out these poor practices through auditing, the EHRC said. This suggests that global corporations are not channelling enough resources into stamping out poor labour standards in all parts of their supply chain. Some might absolve responsibility – simply blaming the factories - but would you feel comfortable about people incurring abuse at the hands of your demands?
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