The GLA’s aim is to improve the food industry’s reputation by helping workers at the bottom of the supply chain. The supermarket and supplier protocol is a big step forward in achieving this. The collective spirit and action within the agriculture and food industry has already improved standards and the sector can justifiably argue that it is leading the way for others.

We were impressed by the dedication of all parties involved in long negotiations. There was a real desire to make a difference rather than just protect business interests.

While the GLA has had a significant effect in raising standards so far, the support and cooperation of the whole supply chain will be needed to give the protocol life. Suppliers and supermarkets regularly conduct their own audits, and the protocol will help all parties to share information about problems that everyone concerned wants to solve.

The protocol provides a simple system to allow this information to be reported directly to the GLA with an assurance the GLA will work proactively with the business and supply chain that reported it.

The GLA has also committed to work with retailers’ and suppliers’ ethical auditors in order to encourage a consistent approach across the industry. Representatives of the authority will continue to attend supplier conferences where they provide information on current issues and explain what steps are needed to reduce worker abuse.

The GLA will inform all relevant parties if abuse is found in the supply chain. All retailers and suppliers will be encouraged to take decisive action and inform the GLA, with regular communication between all parties keeping everybody well informed of trends and issues.

All suppliers will now be requested to sign up for the GLA Active Check service, which notifies them of changes to the licence status of their labour providers. This will bring two additional benefits.

First, suppliers can be reassured they are using a licensed provider and will also find out immediately if their labour provider loses their licence this will allow them as much time as possible to make alternative arrangements.

Second, the workers will benefit as the GLA will be able to have a much better understanding of how many businesses are supplied by an individual labour provider. This will enable a proper assessment of the impact of any revocation and allow for a strategy to be devised to mitigate the impact on the workers in such cases.

We shall continue to publicise those whom we discover are exploiting workers. We also want to ensure that those who have information will come forward.

We have already seen the benefits of some trial work before the protocol was signed, and the good practice labour user guide at the end of the protocol will enable this experience to be shared. This guide will take any supplier through the basic questions to ask when dealing with a labour provider and includes where to get additional guidance as well as the reasons for the questions. It encourages suppliers to interview agency workers and provides a straightforward question list.

There’s still much to do, but now the protocol is in place all concerned will be able to work together even more effectively. The industry can burnish its ethical credentials and give better protection to workers.