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Fairtraders in action at Lidl (photo: Lesley Shareif).

Bexhill Fairtraders in action at Lidl (photo: Lesley Shareif).

Bexhill Fairtraders in action at Lidl

Bexhill Fairtrade group welcome Lidl’s decision to introduce the living wage, but want the company to boost its commitment to fairly traded products. They have been in touch with both the management and those who shop there, as they report below.

Members of the Bexhill Fairtrade Town Committee recently met and talked to shoppers outside the Lidl store in Sidley. Previously two of our number, the chair Jack Doherty and Ros Woodroffe, had met with the store’s deputy manager to congratulate the company on their brilliant pre-emptive policy of quickly introducing the living wage as the minimum pay level for all their employees, setting a great example in fairness to all employers.

We also congratulated them on stocking a number of products displaying the Fairtrade logo among their tea, coffee, wine, chocolate and banana ranges, although we expressed concern that the availability of some of them varied. Their Fairtrade bananas are popular but sit beside unmarked bananas which are probably unfairly traded.

“Everybody who provides service and products for consumers should be receiving at least the living wage equivalent,” says committee member Neil Woodroffe. “This means the producers and workers providing us with much cherished items like tea, chocolate, coffee, cereal, cotton clothing, etc, should be able to live and support themselves and their children. Too many from the food and clothing industries blatantly ignore this. Fairtrade guarantees fair prices and wages, ie at least a living wage, together with premium bonuses.”

Members of the group had very interesting conversations with shoppers entering and leaving the store and many filled in our questionnaire. There was a general consensus that the Fairtrade principles should also apply to our local farmers, such as milk producers, as well as smalholder producers in the developing world. We should not push them into poverty by using bullying methods to get the lowest prices, which are often below the costs of production. There was sympathy for banana farmers, for example , who are getting about half the price they were 10 years ago despite many costs such as transport and fertilisers more than doubling.

In a short space of time many shoppers signed up, demanding that all bananas should be Fairtrade, which of course also means no child labour. “We now have over 350 signatures in favour of Bexhill becoming a 100% Fairtrade Banana Town,” Jack says.  Among Bexhill supermarkets Sainsbury’s and the Co-op are already committed to selling only Fairtrade bananas.

There was also great sympathy for the many people who are on low incomes and dependent on foodbanks, who are driven to seek out the lowest prices. Ironically this in turn drives many producers into dire poverty and starvation. Living as we do in a global village we can see clearly the need for fair solutions. What we need is some joined-up thinking – everyone should receive the living wage, those serving us our food shopping, those delivering it and those producing it. Why should a banana producer and his family not be able to live on their pay and the children have no schools or access to basic health services?

So we applaud Lidl and Aldi for their living wage initiative but urge their buyers to use the same just thinking when dealing with their producers and make it a good living for everyone all along the chain, from shelves to fields, here and afar! Lidl’s code of practice, principles and corporate responsibility as presented on their website refer to “fair” at least three times, respect and support for business partners, environmental responsibility and trustworthiness – we will support and applaud them in implementing these ideas.

“What we have heard from Lidl HQ is that they are considering a response to our request,” Jack says. “Ultimately consumers have the power to change lives!”

 

The Bexhill Fairtrade Town Committee would welcome more volunteers and supporters to help us make faster progress with our planned ventures. Please contact us via our website.

Posted 14:37 Wednesday, Nov 4, 2015 In: Campaigns

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