Labour Research March 2017

Health & Safety Matters

Doubt cast on ethical trading initiative

The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is “utterly ineffective when it comes to defending workers’ rights”, according to the GMB general union’s international officer Bert Schouwenberg. 

And it “does a great deal of damage by allowing its corporate members to boast about their supposedly ethical credentials to the public at large when the reality is completely different”. 

The ETI is an alliance of companies, unions and NGOs that promotes respect for workers’ rights around the world. The TUC and several international trade union confederations are members. 

Schouwenberg’s comments came after a trade union international delegation was refused entry to a pineapple plantation in Costa Rica run by fruit giant Fyffes. The GMB claims that Fyffes is “hiding behind an ETI ‘smokescreen’ while bullying and exploiting their workers”. 

ETI garment industry members have also come under recent scrutiny. For example, a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, Undercover: Britain’s cheap clothes, found that workers in Leicester making clothes destined for River Island and New Look are being paid less than half the legal minimum wage rate. 

In response to the programme, Martin Buttle of the Ethical Trading Initiative said the organisation has been raising serious concerns about very low wages and poor working conditions in Leicester’s garment trade over the last three years.