Westfield under fire from social groups

Whilst Westfield Group (ASX: WDC) has maintained a heavy focus on strengthening its balance sheet and competitive position around the world, numerous groups are claiming that other key areas, such as social, environmental and governance policies, may have been neglected.

In Australia, the United Voice union is arguing on behalf of 1,600 cleaning staff in Westfield’s shopping centres, claiming that wages paid by contractors are too low. The Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, said “It is not acceptable for organisations to outsource work to the lowest-cost contractor and turn a blind eye to any subsequent unfair treatment of low-paid workers.”

Although James also argued that such a move could prove detrimental to the company’s reputation, Westfield is following the proper process and requires contractors to pay staff the minimum award wages.

Meanwhile, in the US the focus has instead been on the company’s contribution to property taxes, which fund services such as schools. Again, however, it must also be acknowledged that the company is paying the taxes it is being asked for and abiding by the relevant laws.

Foolish takeaway

Westfield prides itself on maintaining clean and social environments at each of its locations and the various claims suggesting otherwise were quashed by the company’s co-chief executive Steven Lowy, who stated that all laws and ethical policies are being followed.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned.

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