Woolworths Revolt


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With profits soaring and competition dwindling, the last thing you'd expect one of the big two supermarket chains to have to contend with is anarchy from within.

That's right�it's the local community store sending a global message. Staff at this Millicent Woolworths in the state's South East have done the unthinkable�refusing to stock their company's own home brand paper products and effectively telling their bosses to stick it.

The reason? Well, for one, they're listening to their customers, almost 700 of whom work at the Kimberley Clark paper and pulp mill down the road.

People like father of three Bryon Walker, who says the locally made premium products barely get a look in, these days, at Woolies�even though Kimberley Clark actually pays Woolworths to try and snare the best placement on their supermarket shelves.

"It's starting to look a bit ominous at the moment, particularly where I work where we do have a lot of machine shuts," Bryon says. "I've got a mortgage, three kids and a wife, and that's a very serious concern of mine not being able to put food on the table."

CFMEU Union Representative Kevin Millie says it's Woolworths "Select" brand, made in Indonesia, that dominates the aisles and puts Aussie jobs at risk.

"At the moment I'd say Kimberly Clark sales are down at least 20% over last years' sales."

Of course it's cheaper to manufacture and therefore cheaper to buy, but there's been a dirty little secret hidden beneath this blank sticker.

Until late last year, the SELECT labels claimed the pulp and paper in their goods came from environmentally sustainable sources, but then came the revelation that it's more likely they came from illegally logged rainforests of Borneo than from a purpose-built plantation which meets strict environmental standards.

Kevin says: "Asia Pulp & Paper, according to all the literature on the internet, are not a sustainable company. They seem to have some questionable forestry practises."

Despite the fact a host of international companies have since rejected the dubious Indonesian company (APP) since being investigated by the ACCC, Woolies simply covered up the misleading labels and continue to sell the products to Australian consumers. But not everywhere.

"If it's an illegal practise, then it should be dealt with by the appropriate authorities, because it's not right," one local reckons.

At this stage the ACCC says it's satisfied Woolworths is trying to cooperate and remedy the situation, which was also confirmed in a statement from the supermarket giant. It said the so-called "over-stickered" labels will soon be fazed out and replaced with new ones.

Understandably, staff at the Millicent store weren't brave enough to go on camera to explain their decision to boycott "Select". However locals reckon, in the face of potential job losses, they're showing their courage and defiance the best they can.

"They have that right to choose and that's a good thing. That's the Australian way of life," Bryon says.