Buying practices must be rethought

Claire Melamed Head of trade and corporates, Action Aid UK Sir; In criticising groups such as ­Action Aid for not disclosing the names of factories where we have uncovered poor working conditions, Asda and Tesco miss a number of central points ('No detail provided of factory 'abuses'', The Grocer, 21 July, p10). In our experience, if names are disclosed, there is a clear risk that workers may face retaliation from supermarkets or their bosses. Factories exposed in the past have been delisted, meaning that workers face job losses and even deeper poverty. But there is a bigger issue here. The cases that Action Aid and others have highlighted are microcosms of a much wider problem caused to a substantial degree by the way supermarkets do business with their suppliers. Dealing with poor working conditions on a case-by-case basis without addressing their root causes will not solve this problem. There needs to be a full rethink on supermarket buying practices, beginning with improved standards and the creation of a watchdog to enforce them.