On 22 November 2017, the Woolworths Group released a statement in which the company committed to working collaboratively with the National Union of Workers ("NUW") and other interested stakeholders "to identify and address human rights risks in fresh food supply chains in Australia".
Woolworths agreed to implement a pre-qualification programme for labour-hire providers to ensure that all labour providers who wish to operate in its supply chains comply with labour and human rights standards. Woolworths also agreed to support workers in its supply chains being educated about their workplace rights, including their right to join a labour union of choice; to have access to an effective grievance mechanism to ensure that human rights violations are reported, investigated and remediated; and to be protected if they report human rights violations.
The commitment followed discussions between Woolworths, the NUW and the Australasian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility ("ACCSR"). It appears that in response to Woolworths' statement, a number of ACCSR-sponsored resolutions on labour rights to be discussed at Woolworths' annual general meeting were withdrawn.
Separately, the NUW has negotiated new enterprise agreements covering approximately 2,000 workers at Woolworths' distribution centres in Victoria and New South Wales with annual pay rises of around 4 per cent per year. Prior to the negotiation of these enterprise agreements, the NUW had won support to take protected action ballots at its Victorian distribution centres.