A fortnight ago Kimberly-Clark announced the closure of their Ingleburn factory with the loss of 220 jobs. Huggies nappies will no longer be made in Australia.
Huggies has topped Canstar Blue's parent ratings for disposable nappies for the past two years. Unfortunately Australian parents are turning to cheaper imported nappies. To compete, Huggies will now be made in Asia.
Here's the rub. A CSIRO-developed three-dimensional non-woven nappy liner is a key component in Huggies nappies sold in Australia since 2013. We were first, but the process is now used around the world. Another example of an Australian invention going overseas?
The CSIRO website optimistically announced in 2014, "The direct benefits to Australia ...(include) ... enhanced security of employment for manufacturing workers at Textor and Kimberly Clark Australia (KCA), export income, and increased tax revenues to the government.
"The development has helped secure the futures of Textor and KCA employees ... in a climate where many other manufacturers are closing their factories in the face of overseas competition."
Well, unfortunately not so. "Michael Aird, NSW divisional secretary for the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) said workers, some of whom have up to 40 years' service, were devastated ..." the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported.
"The sackings prompted union calls for government intervention to save Australian jobs," the SMH added.
"We want the decision reversed. It is wrong for Huggies, wrong for the workers and wrong for the community. People ... want Australian workers to produce that product on safe and fair standards of pay and conditions," the CFMEU official continued.
Another CFMEU official pleaded, "... how will I know that Huggies nappies are still made to Australian safety standards?"
The Australian Industry Group's chief executive, Innes Willox said after last year's July 1 wage rise, "Australia already had the second-highest national minimum wage in the world (just behind France) and today's decision runs the risk of further harming the competitiveness of Australian businesses," The Guardian reported.
I wouldn't like to have to live on the minimum wage, but I wouldn't like to be unemployed, either. With skyrocketing energy costs, industry rightly claims that there is no room for higher wages.
With Bill Shorten's militant allies, Sally McManus and the ACTU, pushing for a "living wage", code for even higher factory wages, the Huggies decision could multiply under a Shorten government.
Huggies workers were handed a document that said, "All affected employees who leave Kimberly-Clark will be paid their full legal entitlements and redundancy pay, which is above the national redundancy provisions".
It was that last sentence that caught my eye, "above the national redundancy provisions." That and the fact that the union at the Huggies plant is the CFMEU.
That would be the same CFMEU that has just lost an appeal on penalties for strike action at the Barangaroo site? They will have to pay $1.7 million, including $510,000 in penalties imposed on its NSW branch and a combined $189,000 for nine officials for industrial action in 2014.
So another Australian factory closes.
ABCC commissioner Stephen McBurney said the "the level of abuse and intimidation directed against workers, public servants and police officers just doing their jobs, demonstrated a complete disregard for the law," by the union and its officials, according to a report in The Australian last week.
The CFMEU has paid $3.29 million in penalties this financial year and has another 38 cases pending. This union is well known for thuggery.
Union delegate Peter Genovese was suspended from his employment after incidents of throwing a punch at a site manager and threatening to "kill" him. Former NSW state secretary Brian Parker was fined $45,400.
A policewoman at the site described how Mr Parker "made sure that I was feeling either intimidated or scared".
Directors assessing factory efficiency would note they were dealing with the CFMEU, and being forced to pay above the national provisions. Standover tactics can work on a building site, but a factory can be closed once the union has made the site noncompetitive.
So another Australian factory closes. Between Bill Shorten's wages plan, and the CFMEU's new muscle under a Shorten government, all of our goods will soon be made in Asia. Paul Keating's promised "banana republic" will have arrived!