Saturday, March 13, 2010

The dignity of labour

Beaten, bullied, shoved, kicked, degraded...

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it has uncovered significant evidence of abuse among producers supplying Britain's big supermarkets. The inquiry includes reports from meat factory workers who say they have had frozen burgers thrown at them by line managers, and accounts of pregnant women being forced to stand for long periods or perform heavy lifting under threat of the sack.

It also contained reports from women with heavy periods and people with bladder problems on production lines being denied toilet breaks and forced to endure the humiliation of bleeding and urinating on themselves.

One-fifth of workers interviewed, from across England and Wales, reported being pushed, kicked or having things thrown at them, while a third had experienced or witnessed verbal abuse.

The EHRC said some examples, such as forcing workers to do double shifts when ill or tired, were in breach of the law and licensing standards, while others were a "clear affront to respect and dignity".

Migrant workers are the most affected because one-third of permanent workers and two-thirds of agency workers in the industry are migrants, but British and other agency employees face similar ill-treatment, the report found.