SPC workers fear getting canned

According to a story this morning in The Age, jobs at food producer SPC Ardmona hang in the balance after Woolworths said it would be ending its canned tomatoes deal with SPC and wouldn’t say whether it will retain a five-year agreement struck in 2014 for other private-label tinned fruit.

At the same time, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has raised fears the company is considering sending fruit-sourcing offshore.

Tom Hale, the AMWU national food division secretary, was quoted as saying that the federal government should “pull together all political parties and start drafting legislation to help keep the Australian food industry alive”.

He also noted that the voluntary Food and Grocery Code of Conduct should be “enshrined into law, which would force big retailers to comply with minimum standards when dealing with suppliers….”

“The current system of self-regulation is not working,” Hale was quoted by The Age report.

While Woolworths did rescue SPC’s struggling Shepparton cannery two years ago with a five-year deal to buy its private-label tinned fruit, the agreement was apparently made only on a ‘handshake’.

At the same time, according to a number of sources, the private label tomatoes are an “immaterial” part of Woolworths $70 million supply agreement with SPC.

“It plays havoc with the lives of farmers and factory families who have made important decisions based on Woolworths’ word,” said Federal Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash.

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