Woolworths appoints Code Arbiter

Woolworths has appointed lawyer Helen McKenzie as its Code Arbiter.

This is a newly created role under the recently strengthened Food and Grocery Code of Conduct, which governs the retailer’s dealings with its 5400 food and grocery suppliers.

Ms McKenzie will be responsible for dealing with complaints from suppliers about Woolworths’ compliance with the Code. Woolworths has been a voluntary signatory to the Code since 2015.

In the Code Arbiter role, Ms McKenzie will have authority to settle disputes relating to Woolworths’ obligations under the Code. She will also develop and follow a new complaints handling procedure, and prepare annual reports that will be published and provided to the ACCC and government-appointed Independent Reviewer.

Woolworths’ Code Arbiter replaces its Code Compliance Manager, who previously dealt with complaints.

Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci says that as founding signatories, the business has been strong advocates of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct for many years.

“The Code provides a robust set of checks and balances and Graeme Samuel’s independent review found it has helped improve relationships between retailers and suppliers,” he says.

“The introduction of the independent Code Arbiter role for each signatory was a key recommendation from that review.

“The enhanced dispute resolution mechanisms in the Code are now among the strongest in the retail industry anywhere in the world and will provide additional assurances that suppliers can speak up safely and have commercial grievances resolved as objectively and expeditiously as possible.

“Helen McKenzie has a distinguished record in the law, including in dispute resolution, over many years and is well placed to fulfil this critically important role.”

About Helen McKenzie

Ms McKenzie, according to Woolworths, is one of Australia’s leading employment lawyers with extensive experience in all forms of dispute resolution including conciliation, arbitration, mediation, and grievance procedures.

Ms McKenzie is also said to be adept at advising on and drafting procedures for the resolution of disputes, complaints, and grievances. This includes whistle-blower complaints and third-party complaints.

Ms McKenzie says she is delighted to be taking on the role.

“An important purpose of the Code is to ensure that disputes between retailers and suppliers can be investigated and resolved quickly, fairly and effectively,” she says.

“I trust that my long experience in dispute resolution will give suppliers the confidence to raise concerns with me and that I can demonstrate the value of this important role.”

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