Processors should pay more for an "ethical" labour force

Related tags Labour providers Supply chain License Need

Crunch time for labour code to curb exploitative gangmasters

The government has urged processors to use only labour provided under an ethical code of practice drawn up in advance of next year's Gangmasters Licensing Act. Retailers are also being encouraged to put pressure on to suppliers to comply.

The code, drawn up by the Ethical Trading Initiative -- an alliance of non-government organisations, employers and unions -- sets out standards which labour providers must meet legally as well as recommending good practice. Food and farming minister Lord Whitty said that, in order to be effective, the code needed to be recognised across the industry.

"There is always going to be a need for short-term labour," he said. "How we deliver it is important to the well-being of the industry. For action to be effective, the entire supply chain -- from labour providers to supermarkets -- needs to be involved in stamping out illegal practices."

Dan Rees, director of the Ethical Trading Initiative, said processors should pay more for labour provided under the code.

"I am urging manufacturers to pay an hourly rate to the labour providers that reflects the costs of compliance. The entire industry has a vested interest in ensuring that sufficient numbers are worthy of a licence."

Rees said retailers also had a duty to check suppliers were using labour providers signed up to the code as part of their audits.

"Retailers have a responsibility to insist that the standards of the code are observed and to seek evidence from their supplier base that that is going on," he said.

Marks & Spencer will soon insist that all suppliers use gangmasters accredited to the code.

The Gangmasters Licensing Act, now out for consultation but expected to come into force next spring, will make it illegal for labour providers to operate without a licence and for any company to use an unlicensed gangmaster.

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