The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) and the UK's leading retailers are close to a wide-reaching agreement aimed at stamping out worker abuse in the fresh food supply chain, The Grocer can reveal.
Representatives of the GLA and all the major retailers met last week to discuss collaborative measures to increase the scrutiny on suppliers' labour sourcing strategies.
This is expected to lead to a formal agreement being signed within the next three months that will commit the two sides to information sharing and joint auditing practices.
Under the proposals supermarkets will get primary suppliers to provide their details to the GLA on an annual basis. The GLA will then provide best practice guidelines to suppliers and carry out joint audits with supermarkets to see procedures are followed.
GLA inspectors will also spend time with retail and supplier technical teams and share information on areas of non-compliance.
Retailers will be notified first when a labour provider has its gangmaster's licence revoked, putting an end to previous arrangements in which they would hear about it in the press. The GLA and retailers will discuss details of their collaboration and issue joint press statements.
"This underlines how committed the retailers are to ensuring that workers are not exploited," said GLA chairman Paul Whitehouse. "They are naturally worried about brand reputation and this helps with that."
Whitehouse rejected suggestions that the joint audits could make life more difficult for suppliers, claiming that agreed standards would make auditing more transparent.
However, he said that the presence of retailer representatives at two recent trial audits had encouraged senior members of the supplier's staff to be present. This gave the GLA more clout to carry out more thorough inspections, he added.
Meanwhile, Goose Recruit had its licence revoked this week after it committed offences from high accommodation charges to excessive working hours.