Article by: Hari Yellina
To guarantee the safety of horticultural employees in the supply chain, Woolies has struck an agreement with a union alliance. In May, Woolworths Group and the Retail Supply Chain Alliance signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to protect the well being of Australian workers. Formed in 2019 the Retail Supply Chain Alliance is a partnership between the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU); Australian Workers’ Union (AWU); and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA). The MoU partners will cooperate across the industry to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of decent work and gender equality. The two organisations will work together on worker education and industry engagement programmes, such as forums and workshops in major growing regions, to raise awareness of concerns and encourage positive results for workers.
Third-party labor-hire company procedures and enhanced transparency will be central to the MoU’s goals. Alex Holt, Woolworths Group’s chief sustainability officer, said it was a significant milestone in the supermarket giant’s efforts to collaborate with all levels of the horticulture industry to promote fair working conditions. “Australia’s farmers work tirelessly to feed families across the country, and they are valuable partners in this effort to boost the experience of pickers, packers, and other employees in the fruit and vegetable supply chain,” Ms Holt said.
“We know there’s more progress to be made, and we’re looking forward to increasing our engagement with workers, labour hire providers, farmers, and legislators as part of our new relationship with the Alliance to create better experiences for the people who help supply outstanding Australian goods.” In 2019, Coles and the RSCA signed an Ethical Retail Supply Chain Accord. Coles’ chief legal and safety officer, David Brewster, stated that the supermarket understood that a safe, sustainable, ethical, and equitable retail supply chain could not be guaranteed in the long run without the active participation of those who work in it.
Consumers demand ethically sourced goods, and farm workers deserve a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s labour, according to AWU national secretary Daniel Walton. “This agreement will go a long way toward ensuring fair and ethical working conditions for fruit and vegetable pickers, packers, and other employees across Australia,” Mr Walton said. The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA) applauded Woolworths Group and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSCA) on their partnership and the re-signing of the Ethical Retail Supply Chain Accord with Coles in April. Such agreements, according to outgoing AFPA CEO Michael Rogers, would fit in with the Horticultural Award modifications made last month, which awarded horticulture workers the minimum wage.
“We know that the amendments to the Horticulture Award will provide a clear and enforceable norm for employers, and that they will make detecting non-compliance with the award easier for workers, regulatory agencies, unions, and supply chain partners,” Mr Rogers said. It proved Woolworths’ commitment to sourcing fresh goods solely from vendors who can satisfy an established level, he added.”This MoU also highlights the RSCA’s commitment to reporting employers that do not meet requirements to relevant agencies for action,” he said. “Through this method, only complying suppliers will be allowed to participate in the supply chain, and the new provisions of the Award will be implemented.”