Industry to study staff abuse

Supermarkets and meat processors have promised to investigate claims of staff degredation and exploitation, following a new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The EHRC claims to have uncovered widespread evidence of mistreatment of staff within the meat sector following a survey which interviewed 260 workers across the industry. This found that seven out of 10 said they felt they had been treated badly in factories or by agenices because of their race or nationality.

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda have all vowed to study concerns raised by the EHRC's report.

BMPA director Stephen Rossides said: "The instances of illegal, unethical, unfair and degrading practices, which the report has found in some parts of the industry, are completely unacceptable in a modern food industry and in our society.

"While the report also highlights good practice in other parts of the industry, the issues raised by the report are a matter of concern to everyone in the industry."

The EHRC inquiry said that the regulator of supplied labour, the GLA, had helped improve standards in the industry but was hampered in dealing with labour problems, due to a lack of resources.

Ian Livsey, GLA chief executive, said: "We welcome the recognition in the report that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority has helped to improve standards in agencies and labour suppliers.

"Government has recently increased funding for the GLA for both the current financial year by £500K and, in the next, by £430K to cover increased enforcement activity. We have also been successful in obtaining money from the Migrations Impact Fund. As a result of this additional money, we now have over 90 staff dedicated to stamping out the kinds of abuse identified in the report and, properly targeted, this will help us increase effectiveness."

Recommendations from the report include supermarkets improving their auditing of suppliers and processing firms and agencies improving recruitment practices.

Asda and the Unite union have already joined forces and met with all 29 of Asda's meat suppliers with the aim of moving to a new business model of supply chain management. Tesco has also announced that, from next year, all workers, either permanent or from an agency, will receive equal pay.

A Sainsbury's spokesperson added: "We recognise supermarkets have a key role to play in helping to address some of the issues raised. in this report. We welcome the recommendations over working collaboratively, via the Ethical Trading Initiative, to address the concerns raised by the EHRC."

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