The Kimberly-Clark factory in Ingleburn used to make Huggies for Australia.
The Kimberly-Clark factory in Ingleburn used to make Huggies for Australia.

Union accuses US giant of ‘rolling the dice’ on Huggies quality

UNION bosses have accused US manufacturer Kimberly-Clark of "rolling the dice" on the quality of disposable nappies Aussie babies will use in the future by closing its Western Sydney factory, which makes Huggies, and sending the work to China and Korea.

Kimberly-Clark off its entire Western Sydney workforce on Wednesday morning and announced that Huggies nappes would no longer be manufactured in Australia.

Bosses called in the 220 employees at the Ingleburn factory told them Australia's most popular nappies would instead be made in China and Korea.

Kimberly-Clark factory in Ingleburn where Huggies nappies are made. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Kimberly-Clark factory in Ingleburn where Huggies nappies are made. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

The Ingleburn Mill will be close by the end of July and a letter to union officials said "nappy production will move to Kimberly-Clark's facilities in Asia to access the latest advancements in technology."

Furious employees told reporters after the meeting: "It's a disgrace and shouldn't be allowed."

"This product is going to be made off shore and then shipped back here to be sold. What about Australian workers? What about our manufacturing industry?"

Union bosses said the manufacturer decision was "rolling the dice" on the quality of nappies Aussie babies would be using in the future.

"This is a devastating blow for workers proud to be making the products that mums and dads across Australia rely on," CFMEU textile clothing footwear national secretary Jenny Kruschel said.

She said parents were already asking if nappies will be made to Australian standards.

"The reality is, parents won't know. We are rolling the dice by putting Aussie kids in nappies made in countries where product safety standards are notoriously lower."

She said the decision to close the factory had thrown Australian workers "on the scrap heap".

"Kimberly-Clark needs to reverse their decision and save Huggies - beloved by Australian families for generations - before it's too late.

"State and federal government's should also intervene, taking immediate action to ensure these iconic Australian brands continue to be made by Australian workers," she said.

The factory is going to close, with nappies now being made in Asia. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
The factory is going to close, with nappies now being made in Asia. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

A Q&A document given to workers before they were sent home told them Korea had already started production of Huggies Nappy Pants "and the plan is for China to commence production of nappies in May to allow for a smooth transition".

"The plan is to commence production of Dry Nites and Little Swimmers in Korea in November," it said.

Kimberly-Clark Australia and New Zealand managing director Doug Cunningham said: "Going forward, production will move to Kimberly-Clark's facilities in Asia, enabling faster access to the latest research and engineering advancements in nappies and pants," he 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.

"In addition, outplacement assistance and counselling will be provided."

The letter from Kimberley Clark to employees.
The letter from Kimberley Clark to employees.

The decision to close the mill was made on Tuesday and workers were informed on Wednesday.

It comes just over five years after the company added 27 new jobs to the mill and committed to Australian manufacturing with a new $28 million pants machine.

The closure is part of a global restructuring program that will see the sale or closure of 10 manufacturing plants around the world.

The Kimberly-Clark mill in South Australia which produces Kleenex and Viva products will remain open.

Then NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell officially openned the facility in 2013.
Then NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell officially openned the facility in 2013.