M&S defends supply chain standards as Unite cyber attack falls flat

Marks & Spencer’s (M&S) HR director has defended the retailer in wake a ‘cyber attack’ by the Unite union over the treatment of workers in the retailer’s supply chain.

Unite launched an internet assault on M&S on Wednesday 27 February, alleging that the retailer is guilty of “widespread discrimination” in the treatment of workers in the meat supply chain.

According to the union, people searching for the retailer on Google were shown an advert from Unite alleging the retailer has failed to live up to its own ethical standards.

The union claimed that 15,000 people had gone onto the site as of late yesterday afternoon, however, when Personnel Today attempted to view the advert several times, it did not appear on the search engine.

More than 100,000 people in the UK and globally have also received e-mails from the union, asking them to e-mail M&S corporate management using a link provided.

Unite joint general secretary, Tony Woodley, said: “We are using virtual reality to highlight the actual reality for workers producing M&S meat and poultry.

“Marks and Spencer’s drive to keep costs down within its supply chain has created a permanent two-tier workforce where mainly migrant agency workers are on even lower conditions than directly employed workers.”

Unite said it raised its concerns with M&S over a year ago, but so far has no evidence to see the retailer “practices what it preaches”.

The supermarket expressed surprise by Unite’s demonstrations. HR director Keith Cameron told Personnel Today: “We’d argue we have higher standards, as do other high-quality stores like Waitrose. You may use the same supplier [as some cheaper supermarkets], but you won’t have the same specification. Where things are cheaper in the other end of market it’s for obvious reasons.”

Last week Cameron told Personnel Today there were absolutely no plans to cut jobs at the retailer, despite falling sales at and since Christmas.

The internet campaign coincided with Unite protests outside M&S stores across the country.

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