Food chain workers still exploited despite supermarkets' coronavirus profits: Oxfam Novib
Despite supermarkets making considerable profits thanks to the coronavirus pandemic in the past year, the workers and farmers in their foreign food chains are still being exploited, Oxfam Novib said in a report. The human rights movement investigated food chains in five countries and eight large supermarket chains, including the Netherlands' Albert Heijn, Jumbo, Lidl, Aldi and Plus, NOS reports.
The studied supermarkets saw their revenues and profits increase significantly over the past year, Oxfam Novib said. Eight large listed supermarket chains, including Ahold Delhaize, Tesco and Walmart, increased their dividend payments from over 8 billion euros to 18.7 billion euros. But their supply chain noticed none of this.
"The workers in their supply chains, on the other hand, took the blows of the corona pandemic. In India, for example, people who worked on tea plantations lost their livelihoods due to lockdowns. Supermarkets have not shown that they provided extra support," said Oxfam Novib policy advisor Anouk Franck.
And women in particular suffered under this, the organization said. "They are always at the lowest end of the chain. As a result, they have shorter contracts, insecure jobs, and they earn less," Franck said. Oxfam Novib research showed that women in Thailand's shrimp industry earn 29 percent less than men, and in the coffee industry in Brazil 16 percent less. These differences only became larger during the pandemic.
"Supermarkets show the will to change and steps are being taken, but more really needs to be done," Franck said. "They need to do better research in the chains. The fact that we found in five countries that women are having such a bad time shows how urgent the problem is."
CBL, the interest organization for Dutch supermarkets, denied Oxfam Novib's conclusions. Dutch supermarkets "continued to invest in improving the chains in the corona time," CBL said to NOS. The industry is "continually committed to examining how working conditions can be improved."
Ahold-Delhaize, the parent company of Albert Heijn, called Oxfam Novib's conclusions a simplification. "There are many parties in the food chain and we are at the end of it. It is not so easy that we can solve those problems with last year's finances. They are global problems."