Supermarket chain Tesco will tomorrow face allegations that thousands of women workers in one of its foreign operations endured low wages and “appalling” conditions.
As the company prepares to announce record profits of more than £2bn on Tuesday, campaigners are demanding that the massive buying power of major supermarkets be brought under control.
A report by the charity ActionAid, to be released tomorrow, found that women workers in South Africa who grow fruit sold in Tesco stores endured “poor wages and pitiful conditions”.
Tesco, Britain's biggest buyer of South African fruit, is signed up to the industry's ethical trading initiative which sets out minimum labour standards.
However, researchers for ActionAid uncovered unacceptable conditions among temporary labourers interviewed on Tesco-accredited farms.
The report is expected to reveal how workers complained of receiving pay equivalent to below South Africa's minimum wage.
A Tesco spokesman said the retailer would urgently investigate the ActionAid allegations once it had received details of the inquiry.
He said the supermarket's trade with developing countries had brought enormous social and economic benefits to thousands of workers.
"We work hard to ensure that every worker producing for Tesco is paid fairly and treated decently and we audit suppliers regularly to ensure that this happens," he told the Guardian.