Coles to work with unions on safer conditions for fresh food workers

Supermarket giant Coles has committed to 
a safer environment for workers in fresh produce and meat supply chains in a new agreement with transport, retail and farm unions.

Coles will work with the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU), the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) to address worker exploitation and healthy and safety risks in the fresh food industry, while promoting better transparency and end-to-end compliance within its supply chains.

“Worker exploitation in any part of the Australian fresh food supply chain is not acceptable,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.

“Underpayment of wages and superannuation and unsafe working conditions must be addressed. Coles has been working with the TWU to ensure safety and fairness in road transport and it has shown its commitment to continue to work with its supply chains to ensure that all workers are treated in accordance with Australian workplace legislation.” 

Workers in retail stores and retail warehouses are currently protected under union negotiated Enterprise Agreements. These unions wish to ensure all workers in the fresh food industry are aware of theses rights and have the power to exercise them.

Coles head of quality and responsible sourcing, James Whittaker said the supermarket has made significant progress in the past 10 years on its Ethical Sourcing journey, and is looking forward to working with these unions.

“Coles is committed to the safety and fair treatment of all the workers in our supply chains, as per our Ethical Sourcing Policy and Supplier Requirements. Our local Australian suppliers and workers are critical to the provision of fresh, quality produce and meat to our customers,” Whittaker said.

A Fair Work Ombudsman inquiry last year, in which more than A$1 million was recovered in unpaid wages for over 2,500 workers, highlighted the need for compliance and accountability across the fresh produce and meat processing supply chains.

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