News from Tesco and the issue of poverty wages in the Moroccan tomato sector

9 October 2014

This week, Tesco publicly responded to Fairfood’s Morocco Report  –  which exposes the poverty wages paid to workers in the Moroccan tomato sector – in an online article published on Business Human Rights Resource Centre.

This would seem to be encouraging news, as Tesco writes that it is committed to playing a role in improving the low wages paid to workers in Morocco. However, Tesco also admits that only 30% of the workers in their Moroccan tomato supply chain earn a living wage, but they are shockingly quiet about the remaining 70% of Moroccan tomato workers who do not earn a living wage.

Tesco’s roadmap to a living wage for all tomato workers

In our Morocco report, we revealed that tomatoes sold in winter in European supermarkets, including Albert Heijn, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, are picked and packed by Moroccan tomato workers who earn extremely low wages, which are not enough to live on.

In Tesco’s response to our report, they state that their research has shown that 30% of the workers in their Moroccan tomato supply chain earn a living wage or above. This indicates that 70% of the workers who pick and pack the Moroccan tomatoes that Tesco sells in their stores earn wages that are insufficient to meet their basic living costs.

Independent research is needed

Fairfood’s research has shown that Tesco’s findings are actually far too positive. Fairfood has commissioned independent field and desk research since December 2012, which clearly indicates that workers in the Moroccan tomato sector, including the ones that work for companies supplying Tesco, earn far below a living wage. They live in poverty and have trouble affording even simple things like education for their children and healthcare.

Fairfood finds it interesting to read that Tesco has assessed a sample of payslips of the Moroccan tomato workers themselves as a way to ‘manage’ such a high risk of chronic violation of human rights. It is worrying that a professional company uses such an ad hoc and methodologically unsound approach to measuring the scope of it. It is even more worrying to use it as the basis for a response to thorough research. Research on wages of workers should always be established through independent, objective research to reflect the real conditions workers live in, and should not be assessed by Tesco’s own staff.

Tesco’s commitment

The good news is that Tesco also claims to be committed to playing their part in improving the low wages of workers in Morocco. We challenge Tesco to act now, to collaboratively compose an action plan to ensure that living wages are paid to all of its Moroccan tomato workers, and to finally respond to the multiple requests for a meeting we have been sending them since April.

As Tesco has now publicly communicated their commitment, we are convinced that they will soon confirm our latest request to schedule an in-person meeting to further discuss their living wage action plan for Moroccan tomato workers. This would ensure that the workers that pick and pack the tomatoes Tesco sells in their stores do not have to live in poverty anymore.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is an independent non-profit that monitors the human rights abuses and advances of companies around the world and helps the vulnerable eradicate abuse.