South African wine farms and the responsibility for due diligence by Dutch supermarkets

Although the Netherlands is a significant market for South African wine, there has hardly been any discussion – let alone action – regarding the abuse of both human rights and labour rights in this industry. Through this research, SOMO and the South African organisation TCOE want to raise awareness about workers’ rights violations in the South African wine industry and at the same time support the work of local labour unions.

This report scrutinises the human rights due diligence An ongoing risk management process in order to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how [a company] addresses its adverse human rights impacts. It includes four key steps: assessing actual and potential human rights impacts; integrating and acting on the findings; tracking responses; and communicating about how impacts are addressed. Source: Business and Human Right Resource Centre policies and practices of the five leading Dutch supermarkets – Albert Heijn, ALDI, Jumbo, Lidl and PLUS – regarding their sourcing of wines in South Africa to see if they are up to standard, and looks at how they can contribute more to improvements in working and living conditions on South African wine farms.

Together with the local trade union CSAAWU, SOMO and TCOE investigated the situation on a handful of vineyards. This fieldwork is an illustration for a long and steady stream of reports on working conditions in the South African wine industry; European NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been producing critical reports for more than 15 years.

The most important conclusions in terms of working conditions are: workers generally do not have a permanent contract nor receive a living wage. Unsafe pesticide use is a recurring topic, and it remains very difficult for people to organise themselves, for example through a trade union. Only a small minority of workers in the wine industry is organised and, in addition, trade unions meet a lot of resistance from companies if they want to stand up for the rights of their members and workers in general.

SOMO calls on supermarkets in the Netherlands to actively pursue improvements in their chain, to identify risks and not to blindly rely on certification initiatives.

 

 

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