Tomato crops grown by a young female farmer in Vanuatu. Photo: Rachel Schaevitz/Oxfam

Tomato crops grown by a young female farmer in Vanuatu
Tomato crops grown by a young female farmer in Vanuatu

Improving worker voice in the Italian agricultural sector

British supermarket Waitrose wanted to improve conditions for workers in the agricultural supply chain in Southern Italy, where human rights issues such as health and safety risks on farms are well documented. Waitrose wanted to improve site-level worker voice mechanisms, aiming to give farm workers an effective, trusted way to raise issues and concerns at their place of work, and to enable the supplier, together with Waitrose, to hear workers’ concerns and identify necessary actions to address them.

Solution: piloting a grievance mechanism process

We conducted a pilot initiative to increase worker voice by supporting one of Waitrose’ suppliers to engage with workers to design and establish a site-level grievance mechanism.

Impact: building trust to understand the reality for workers

The supplier management went on a journey throughout the pilot, from initially thinking that receiving no grievances was a good thing, to understanding the value of involving workers and building trust to really understand what was going on. They shared that “the simple gesture of reaching out to workers and having a conversation with them, even if workers disagreed or perhaps were hesitant to provide input, that simple gesture made them feel needed and part of the organisation”.

Waitrose has also shared their learnings and experience from the project through the ETI working group on the subject.

Oxfam Business Advisory Service helped our supplier understand why listening to workers was both important and useful to their business. Their guidance throughout the process was practical and gently challenged assumptions about workers’ views and needs”

Sam Ludlow-Taylor, Senior Manager Human Rights Programmes, John Lewis Partnership.