Scottish fruit farm in spotlight over labour issues

Reports suggest that M&S is taking an interest in at least one of its Scottish soft fruit suppliers after they were identified in press reports on potential labour abuse. The stories came to light following the publication of a report by London-based charity Focus on Labour Exploitation (Flex).

Scottish website The Ferret claimed to have received ‘testimony from several migrants who worked on Scottish fruit farms last year, including two from Castleton Farm near Arbroath.

According to The Ferret, ‘The workers said zero-hour contracts at Castleton meant they earned a fraction of what they expected. Though, as stipulated by law, this was topped up to at least minimum wage, workers claim that pickers who had not worked fast enough were sent back to their caravans for the remainder of a working day, which meant they were not able to make any more money.’

A spokesperson for Castleton Far told Scottish newspaper The National: “We have supplied the UK’s major supermarkets for over 20 years. As part of this, we are independently audited regularly, which includes an assessment of how we treat our workforce. Workers are randomly selected and interviewed as part of the process. Worker welfare is extremely important to us. We adhere to SEDEX Ethical Trading Initiative base code and are a member of Stronger Together. We are also audited by the UK retailers, the Gangmaster Licensing Authority and the Health & Safety Executive.”

An M&S spokesperson said, “We take the welfare of workers in our supply chain extremely seriously. We continue to work closely with our supplier and new measures have already been implemented ahead of the next berry season, when we will be conducting in-depth interviews with workers to ensure we gather robust feedback on the improvements.”

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