Earlier this year, IUF members around the world gave vital support to an organizing drive by the T&G section of the IUF’s UK affiliate Unite. The union fought a determined campaign to win equal treatment for agency workers employed at meat producers supplying the UK-based retailer Marks & Spencer. In solidarity with the UK organizing, IUF unions demonstrated – sometimes repeatedly – at M&S outlets in Croatia, Hong Kong, Hungary, Korea, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Switzerland Thailand and Turkey.
The M&S campaign achieved its goals. As a result of the campaign, thousands of UK agency workers are now employed on permanent contracts – giving employment security to many newly arrived migrant workers for the first time. The union has added 13,000 new members and 300 new shop stewards. Union density in the poultry sector has increased dramatically. One major supplier – Bernard Matthews – has signed the minimum standards agreement with Unite giving agency workers the same terms and conditions as permanent workers. And M & S have pledged to ensure equal treatment for all workers regardless of employment status through a program of Ethical Model Factories – the first of which is now being delivered. But the M&S campaign was only the first round in a larger struggle to raise standards throughout the meat sector in the UK and Ireland, and the T&G/Unite has a new target. In the union’s words: “We now face our biggest battle – Tesco. They are the largest retailer in the UK, accounting for 1 pound out of every 8 spent in UK shops. We need to obtain commitments from Tesco to deliver fair treatment for agency workers within their meat supply chain. We call on Tesco to guarantee equal treatment for all workers regardless of employment status or ethnic origin.”