Major Australian supermarkets ‘sure’ up their ethical sourcing channels in labour hire

Australian supermarkets Coles and Woolworths have taken further steps to ensure their supply chains are ethical and exploitation-free by locking down minimum requirements for labour hire providers across the agricultural sector.

Both retailers have moved to shore up minimum standards through their ethical sourcing standards by adopting StaffSure, a proactive industry-led certification program led by RCSA, the peak industry body for the recruitment and staffing sector in Australian and New Zealand.

Through the process, Coles says it understands both the role and value of labour hire providers in its supply chain as well as the potential they can bring for exploitation of staff.

“To help suppliers and the recruitment and staffing industry to reduce risk, Coles has supported the development of the StaffSure labour hire certification program,” a Coles spokesperson has said.

“StaffSure is an independent industry-led certification program that assesses labour hire providers against six key risk elements.”

It lists these as being:

1. Fit and proper persons own and run the labour hire business;
2. Fair remuneration to ensure workers receive legal employment entitlements;
3. Financial assurance to operate the labour hire business sustainably;
4. Safe work for all workers;
5. Immigration and visa laws are complied with; and
6. Accommodation supplied by employers or clients is suitable and rent is fair.

“We are committed to minimising the potential for labour and human rights issues in our supply chains and operations and to transparently sourcing goods and services in an ethical manner Our aim is to ensure that human rights are understood, respected and upheld,” the Coles spokesperson noted.

In February 2019, Woolworths added to its Responsible Sourcing Standards, which requires suppliers in its horticultural supply chain to ensure work standards and pay offered those within the supply chain meet set standards.

“The addendum outlines specific requirements relating to the engagement of labour providers by participants in our horticulture supply chain,” Woolworths Group said in a statement.

“Safeguarding responsible employment practices by labour providers involved in our supply chain is a key component of Woolworths’ responsible sourcing commitments.”

To be an eligible provider to a Woolworths produce supplier, labour hire suppliers must be StaffSure certified or hold a labour hire licence under a State scheme or are approved employers under the Australian Government’s Seasonal Worker Program.

“While our operations and supply chains are complex, our aim is to ensure that human rights issues are understood, respected and upheld,” Woolworths said of its responsible sourcing policy.

“We expect our business partners to adhere to ethical business conduct consistent with our own, and are committed to working with them to fulfil this common goal, and proactively address human rights.”

RCSA CEO Charles Cameron applauded Coles and Woolworths for recognising the industry-led StaffSure program, which was developed following extensive consultation with stakeholders including unions, industry, employers and global certification experts.

There are currently 34 certified labour hire providers listed on the StaffSure registry, and according to Cameron the number is growing every day.

“Central to the StaffSure program is business integrity within contemporary workforce services as we seek to enhance the integrity of labour hire and to stamp out worker exploitation,” Cameron said.

“We have a key goal of helping businesses to identify and source from professional and reputable labour supply firms and the decision by well-known brands to recognise StaffSure as a valued and premier third party certification program is evidence we have achieved that.”

Cameron said there is a clear appetite from consumers for ethically sourced products and this is encouraging retailers to be pro-active in this space.

“Coles and Woolworths have shown great leadership, and trust in the program, by incorporating StaffSure in to their ethical and responsible sourcing programs,” Cameron said.

“RCSA is delighted to see our fresh produce supply chain leaders promoting a leading market-based integrity certification program in to their everyday business dealings.

“Legislation and expectations around this space can change quickly. We believe the best way we can respond is through the development of commercial partnerships, which are market led, to allow us to work together to achieve best outcomes for staff, business and consumers.

“Together we can achieve a lot in stamping out exploitation in the supply chain and I would argue we have a moral obligation to do just that.”

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