If I may be taken seriously just for once, I would like to comment on wages, Lonmin and the Woolworth’s saga as they are intrinsically linked.
Much has been made of the Lonmin massacre and who started what. Not-withstanding the police vs miners debacle, can we at least agree that the root of the problem is low wages?
Much too has been made of the Woolies saga, but I am not going into BEE because instead I would like to talk about their Nutritional labels (there is a connection to the Lonmin massacre, just bare with me).
Nutritional labels have become a marketing tool and especially so with Woolies, who pride themselves on sourcing products from ethical farmers and allowing customers to make informed choices.
I am amazed how much focus we cast on ethical produce, but what about the labourers who produce them? If we are going to be transparent about nutritional content, I believe we follow through and be transparent about the profit trail as well.
No point buying organic bananas if the labourer that planted them lives in squalour. And no point having a healthy body if you don’t have a healthy mind -- if you own a conscience perhaps you believe in a system which is fair for everyone, including the lowly labourer?
I propose that Woolies, or any brave retailer, starts a simple Profit Analysis Label* to paste alongside the nutritional content. This is not to promote communism, which I hate, but to give shoppers a chance to support products from businesses which promote a living wage.
Lets use a bottle of wine as an example:
Profit Analysis Label:
100% --Selling Price
58% --Retailer Profit
12% --Distributor Profit
10% --Farmer/ Investor Profit
0,01% --Labourers Profit
Let's take it a step further and add a colour coding system: Red for low labour profit, orange for medium, and green for high.
Let’s spare a thought for the farmer, who is not necessarily the bad guy in this example. It is the middle men, retailers and restaurants that need to come to the party. When you consider that these guys often pay 30, 60 and even 90 days credit, there is little risk to them for selling a product with a variable cost.
Back to Lonmin. Let’s have a declaration on who made what, from lowly miner to manager to shareholder.
And then let’s ask ourselves, is it really, really fair?
* Profit as a % of selling price
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