Grocery giant Woolworths has to consider shareholder-requisition resolution that would ensure trade union involvement in workers’ education and grievance resolution procedures as recent media reports have alleged abuses by labour hire providers in fresh food supply chain.
This resolution is sponsored by the National Union of Workers (NUW), the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), and industry superannuation fund LUCRF. The need for introduction of this resolution is driven by the issues faced by the labours working in fruit and vegetable supply chain, that includes unsafe working environment, bully of foreign workers, wages below the industry standards, threats of retaliation in case workers seeks to file grievances or become members of a trade union.
The resolution will be placed for the shareholder’s voting in the Annual General Meeting of Woolworths, slated to be held on 21 November 2018. For the execution of this resolution, the majority shareholders, i.e. at least 75% of total shareholders, have to vote “yes” to allow amendments in company’s constitution.
Woolworths’ Board recommended that shareholders do not vote in favor of the resolution since the company has already taken necessary steps to better understand and manage human rights risk in its global supply chain.
The company said, “Since December 2017 Woolworths is working in collaboration with the NUW towards the formulation of an agreed labour-hire program in Woolworths’ horticulture supply chain.” Woolworths and the NUW have held five workshops and had undertaken several other interactions between December 2017 and September 2018, told Woolworths.
More importantly, the company has launched the Responsible Sourcing Standards in July 2018 that aims to manage human right risk through clear set of standards. As per this program, Suppliers are required to maintain grievance mechanisms for workers and have to comply with applicable laws and legal requirements defined in these standards. It also addresses the education program by labour hire providers, supports workers right to join a union of their choice, and ensure trade union involvement to safeguard workers interest.
The Woolworths Responsible Sourcing Policy states “Woolworths is committed to ensuring channels are provided through which adversely affected people or communities can raise concerns or complaints without fear of intimidation, retaliation, discrimination, harassment or victimization.”
But ACCR and LUCRF have filled further resolution as they believe Woolworths’ policies have fell short of the commitments that it made earlier. Co-sponsor Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility mainly looks into the issues relating to environmental and adequate governance but now it focuses on the investigation of workers’ rights related matters among the listed companies.
However, Woolworths has demolished the need to introduce this new labour rights’ resolution on the grounds that it is already in engagement with the programs that ensures involvement of trade union in providing qualification to workers and maintain effective grievance mechanisms.
With this update, Woolworths share price dropped by 0.553% or $0.165 to trade at $29.665 on 13 November 2018 (1:30 PM AEST). In the past one year the stock of Woolworths Group Limited (ASX: WOW) has gone up by 13.38%
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