By Francesca Carnibella, Food & Climate Campaign Manager
#LidlSurprises can brighten up the weekly supermarket shop. From gym wear to ginger, crackers to carrots, you can usually find something new, tasty and cheap in the discounter’s aisles. But there are some surprises Lidl don’t want you to hear about…
Why is Oxfam campaigning against Lidl?
Workers who supply supermarkets are often unable to meet their basic needs – they are trapped in poverty by low wages and maltreatment.
We don’t know for sure if Carlos, the Freire families, Deepak or Maria work on farms or plantations that supply Lidl. However, low wages and this type of abuse are widespread across the food sector and virtually no supermarket can claim there is no human suffering in the food they sell.
“I have this skin condition because of the product I used to apply at the farm.” says Carlos, who works on a fruit farm in Brazil which supplies UK supermarkets.
“This [wound] is generated after this problem. It dried out all the skin and blew up… When it began, it began with a single itch. 15 days later… I felt a terrible heat all over my body. All my hairs fell out. My son first saw some holes on my head when my hair began to fall.”
Carlos has been exposed to toxic substances which may have caused this skin condition. His skin is peeling, he has open wounds and constant itching. He mainly sprays fertilisers and has been advised by his doctor to not go back to the fields.
“They need to give us a tougher [protective workwear], because these current ones are very bad, made of weak material. Some of them leak. This shouldn’t happen.”
The Freire family work in the packing houses of fruit farms in Brazil. “The Mango is more valued than the worker,” says Robson Freire. “The rural worker has no value. The farmer wants us to work, to produce. He isn’t worried if you are tired, in pain… I have never seen any supermarket owner visit our work floor.”
The Freire family’s wages mean choosing between getting medicine for their children or eating.
“For me [with a] family, wife and three kids, if one month a child of mine gets sick, we will go hungry – because I won’t let my son be sick.”
In Assam in India, Deepak, who works picking tea leaves, says, “After spraying all those poisonous chemicals, they don’t even give us soap to wash our hands.”
Maria, who also picks tea leaves, explains that “the ‘jholi’ that we have, it’s a cloth bag for the leaves. It’s 2 meters long, that cloth, we carry the leaves in that and it becomes as heavy as 20 -25 kilograms we have to carry that on our heads and walk.”
“That’s why it becomes difficult to walk. In this hot weather it becomes very difficult for the women having to carry all these leaves in the heat… We are not allowed to sit for more than half an hour, then we get back to plucking.”
As virtually no supermarket can claim there is no human suffering in the food they sell, one of our asks to Lidl is to publish a list of its suppliers.
Oxfam, with supporters like you, are calling on Lidl to do more to protect the people who produce its food.
When ranked against five other UK supermarkets, Lidl had the fewest policies in place to protect the people who produce, pick, process and pack the food the supermarket sells us.
We know from our campaign against Aldi last year that campaigning works. Thanks to efforts from supporters like you, Aldi published its first ever human rights policy. Now it’s time for Lidl to do the same.
Here’s what you can do now.
1. Sign the petition calling on Lidl to be more transparent, protect workers’ rights, pay workers a living wage and ensure a safe place for women to work.
We know that supermarkets really care about what their customers think. The more people that sign, the more likely Lidl is to listen and act.
2. Show you care on social media, tweet Lidl and tell them why you care.
3. Join our campaigns network
4. Support our sister campaigns in Brazil and India
5. Learn learn learn! Read more about our supermarket scorecard and get into the details of why we are targeting Lidl here
Since Oxfam launched its Behind the Barcodes campaign, Lidl have fallen to the bottom of the rankings. Its key competitor, Aldi, improved its score by 18% thanks to supporters like you – who campaigned to protect the people who produce our food and give them a fair chance to beat poverty.