UK - Look at the Tesco Meat Label

Tesco shoppers are being asked to look at what's not on the Tesco meat label by Unite the Union

4 December 2008

Tesco shoppers are being asked to look at what's not on the Tesco meat label by Unite the Union as the union continues nationwide demonstrations to alert the public about the lack of information on meat labelling and the treatment of workers employed by companies in the supply chain that produces meat for Tesco stores.

The union believes that retailers like Tesco are using imported meat from countries like Thailand and the increase of cheap meat imports is contributing to the driving down of conditions for low-paid workers in Britain and Ireland, who are employed by companies in the meat supply chain.

The demonstrators will hand out leaflets with a photo of a Tesco meat product to alert customers about what's not on the meat label. Demonstrations will take place across the country and in the Republic of Ireland (see notes to editors).

For consumers, they often don't know how long ago the meat product was slaughtered, where it was cooked, or whether it has undergone preserving processes such as chilling or freezing either before or after it has been cooked. The label often does not say.

The union has presented Tesco with evidence that workers employed by companies in the supply chain producing meat for Tesco are experiencing harsh and divisive conditions that in some cases are abusive. Unite believes that structural discrimination exists in many parts of the supply chain that provides meat to Tesco. As an indication of the seriousness of Unite's claims, the powerful Equality and Human Rights Commission has announced that it is to examine the UK's multi-billion pound meat industry in England and Wales for evidence of employment abuse and discrimination.

Unite joint general secretary, Tony Woodley said, "Tesco sales are still growing despite the credit crunch but the workers employed by companies that supply meat to Tesco often face low pay, discrimination and abuse.

We believe the supermarkets desire to source meat more cheaply is contributing to a race to the bottom in the UK supply chain. But the meat label from products sourced overseas often does not tell consumers what they should know about the meat product they are buying.

"We believe that Tesco’s procurement practices are creating divisions between migrant and indigenous workers across Britain and Ireland.

"It's time for Tesco to value its meat supply chain and make sure every worker counts. Unite is calling on Tesco to use its influence to ensure companies in its meat supply chain sign a minimum standards agreement and to establish Tesco Ethical Model Factories. This will cost next to nothing but will make a world of difference to workers in Tesco's meat supply chain as well as establishing Tesco as an ethical leader. The power is in the hands of Tesco to make a real difference ."

The demonstrations are part of an ongoing campaign by Unite to improve the treatment of workers, including agency workers, in the UK supermarket supply chain. Unite is concerned that agency workers are often on poorer conditions of employment than core workers and the undercutting of directly-employed workers has caused division in the workplace and damaged social cohesion.

  • A permanent two tier workforce has opened up in the meat supply industry in the UK, where mainly migrant agency labour are on worse terms and conditions than directly employed staff often for doing the same job, causing division in workplaces and communities;
  • Dramatic casualisation of work so that hundreds of workers employed in the supply chain of meat to Tesco do not know day to day, or week to week, what work they have and risk being punished for not using agency housing or transport by the withdrawal of regular work.