Migrant workers who pick and pack Italian tomatoes are paid 40 per cent below the minimum wage and have to pay ‘gangmasters’ a cut.
This was one of the findings of a recent UK report highlighting the unethical production of tomatoes from Italy.
SPC managing director Reg Weine said the Ethical Trading Initiative Report showed the workers were paid as little as EUR $3 per hour for a 10-12 hour day to work on products.
“Not only do Italian companies illegally dump their tomatoes in Australia, damaging our industry, but the country's tomato companies exploit their workers,” he said.
“This is an absolute disgrace.
“I encourage Australian shoppers to boycott Italian tomatoes in favour of Ardmona, SPC and Australian-grown and made retail brand tomatoes, where ethical labour standards are supported and adhered to.
“We pay our Aussie tomato growers a fair price, we are paying our workers award wages, and we are investing heavily in innovation and new plant and equipment to make us more efficient and lower our costs.”
This year, SPC invested $30 million in a new tomato line at its Shepparton factory.
It will be commissioned on Australia Day 2016.
Weine said the labour exploitation in the Italian tomato industry highlighted other issues currently before the Australian Anti-Dumping Commission (ADC).
He says he is aware of comments made in the Italian media about the anti-dumping case, quoting Italian government officials who attempted to scare their Australian counterparts into believing that a fair decision on dumping would have wider ramifications for trade and cause difficulties in FTA negotiations between Australia and Europe.
“This is a clear attempt at scaremongering,” Weine said.
“The facts of the case are indisputable and in total 105 Italian exporters have been found to have illegally dumped product on the Australian market.
“Our objective has always been to secure a level playing field for our Aussie grown tomato products.
“We are confident the Australian Government won’t buckle to these kinds of threats.”
The final recommendation on the case from the Anti-Dumping Commission to the Minister for Industry is due on 17 January 2016.