The manufacture of Australian nappies will be shipped offshore after the closure of a Sydney plant that produced one of the country’s most-loved brands.
The ‘Huggies’ plant in Ingleburn, in the city’s south-west, will be closed as Kimberly-Clark Australia’s production is moved into Asian countries such as China and Korea by July.
In total, it is expected up to 220 jobs will be lost in the move.
A production union has since described the decision to end the local manufacturing of the Australian nappies as a stupid decision for consumers, workers and the company.
“Production will move to Kimberly-Clark’s facilities in Asia, enabling faster access to the latest research and engineering advancements in nappies and pants,” the company said in a statement yesterday.
The move is part of the US corporation’s “global restructuring program”.
“All affected employees who leave Kimberly-Clark will be paid their full legal entitlements and redundancy pay. “
The union for the workers has refused to accept the decision and will try this week to convince management to go back on it.
“It’s a stupid decision for the company, for Huggies, for workers and for consumers,” CFMEU Manufacturing NSW district secretary Michael Aird told AAP.
“It isn’t in the interest of consumers. “
Huggies has topped Canstar Blue’s parent ratings for disposable nappies for the past two years.
“People pay a little extra because they know they have a product that is high quality,” Mr Aird said.
“I certainly know that as a parent of five kids who all grew up in Huggies.”
CFMEU Textile Clothing Footwear National Secretary Jenny Kruschel also described the decision as “a devastating blow” for the workers from the Ingleburn plant.
“As the news gets out, we already have parents asking ‘how will I know that Huggies nappies are still made to Australian safety standards?’,” she said in a statement.
“The reality is, parents won’t. We are rolling the dice by putting Aussie kids in nappies made in countries product safety standards are notoriously lower.
“Our members in Ingleburn have given so much to the company, with those efforts responsible for ensuring Huggies remained a market leader, yet rather than reward that hard work, management have chosen to simply shut the factory and throw these workers on the scrapheap.
“Kimberly-Clark needs to reverse their decision and save Huggies – a product beloved by Australian families for generations – before it’s too late. ”
Meanwhile, Mr Air said the union wasn’t consulted before closure was announced and had indications the site was profitable.
He called on the Morrison government to consider intervening to support Australian jobs, whether through meetings with the company or more drastic action such as emergency tariffs.
Amid the closure, Kimberly-Clark says it will continue to manufacture Kleenex, VIVA and Kimberly-Clark Professional products at its Millicent Mill in South Australia.
Despite that, Nine’s Finance Editor Ross Greenwood told Today this morning that the Sydney closure represents the growing wage problem for multinational companies in Australia.
“Kimberly-Clark worldwide said it was closing down 10 factories. The truth is they’re looking around the world to figure out where their cost bases are too high,” he said.
“They’re looking at Australia – it’s too expensive, they think, to make those nappies here in Australia.
“I feel really sad for the workers here because this is the reality of Australia today. Wages are becoming too expensive and multinational companies, with not only the cost of wages but also the cost of energy as well, are shipping jobs offshore.”
He also said that the jobs Kimberly-Clark still offers at its South Australian plant could also be at risk.
“In the future there are more jobs like this that really have question marks over them,” he said.
“For example, in this particular case, Kimberly-Clark has got another plant that employs even more people in South Australia at Millicent. It makes Kleenex tissues and also makes Viva there, its other brands.
“Those workers had to go through a four year battle to get an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement basically signed last year. It was a massive battle between the unions.
“This is all a battle about wages, but it’s also a battle about international companies having choice as to where they make things.
“If Australia’s too expensive, then those things won’t be made here in Australia anymore.”
© AAP 2019