SIGNS are growing the Australian food supply chain is increasingly taking worker exploitation seriously with a major supermarket aligning with key union groups.
Supermarket chain, Coles, has committed to work with an alliance of unions to address worker exploitation and risks to safety in the Australian fresh food industry.
The Transport Workers' Union, the Australian Workers' Union and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association have all come aboard in order to pursue safe and fair conditions for workers across its fresh produce and meat supply chains.
The three unions will co-operate to organise transport, farm and retail workers to address worker exploitation and risks to health and safety.
The move was announced at the TWU National Council in Cairns earlier this year.
It follows two agreements with the TWU last year which cover the Coles transport supply chain and delivery work in the on-demand economy.
The agreement promotes transparency and end-to-end compliance with the Coles supply chains.
TWU national secretary, Michael Kaine, said worker exploitation in any part of the Australian fresh food supply chain was not acceptable.
"Underpayment of wages and superannuation and unsafe working conditions must be addressed," Mr Kaine said.
"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."
Coles head of quality and responsible sourcing, James Whittaker said the grocery giant was committed to the safety and fair treatment of all its workers in supply chains, as per its 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," Mr Whittaker said.
"We have made significant progress in the past 10 years on our Ethical Sourcing journey, and now look forward to working with these three unions."
AWU national secretary, Daniel Walton, said workers in the fresh food industry can be vulnerable.
"We look forward to working with Coles and the TWU and SDA to protect the rights of these workers," he said.
SDA national secretary, Gerard Dwyer, said workers in retail stores and retail warehouses currently enjoy protections under union negotiated Enterprise Agreements.
"We want to ensure all workers in the fresh food industry are aware of their rights and have the power to exercise those rights," Mr Dwyer said.
"This alliance will mean more workers can be reached in the supply chain to ensure their voices are heard and the exploitation stops."
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