MAC: Mines and Communities

Boycott call on Hardie gathers pace

Published by MAC on 2004-08-04

Boycott call on Hardie gathers pace

By Stephen Gibbs, ABC

August 4, 2004

The public backlash against James Hardie Industries will spread today with the announcement of a local government campaign to boycott the company's products.

City of Sydney, Parramatta and Leichhardt councils have already resolved to boycott the company's building materials until it reverses moves to distance itself from victims of asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Bankstown, Blue Mountains, Waverley and several other councils are set to vote on boycotts, and Canada Bay was considering the issue last night.

The Premier, Bob Carr, said yesterday that he was "inclined to support" a ban on the use of James Hardie products by State Government contractors.

The Government is considering such a proposal put forward by unions, following accusations before a commission of inquiry that the company has short-changed a compensation fund by up to $2 billion.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has written to all mayors calling on councils to join a boycott endorsed by the Labor Council of NSW. The union's state secretary, Andrew Ferguson, said the issue was "gaining considerable traction in the broader community, outside the traditional ambit of union activity". Advertisement Advertisement

On Monday night, City of Sydney Council condemned the actions of James Hardie and resolved that contractors should not purchase or use James Hardie products.

The Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said staff had been directed not to purchase James Hardie products until the company "convinces council it has met its obligations to asbestos victims".

"I think there's a groundswell of opinion in that people are really quite shocked that James Hardie could have gone to such lengths to avoid clear responsibility for quite shocking impacts on people's lives," Cr Moore said.

The Labor candidate for the federal seat of Parramatta, Julie Owens, approached the construction union about the boycott three weeks ago.

"What people are realising now is this is not just a worker issue," she said. "I'm getting a sense of anger from the community. This is not just a workplace issue, this is a huge community health issue and the community is taking it on well and truly."

The Lord Mayor of Parramatta, Julia Finn, said the council voted unanimously on Monday night to use other products in all building maintenance and capital works.

Leichhardt's Mayor, Alice Murphy, put her motion to the council last Tuesday. It "boycotts all James Hardie products until full compensation is guaranteed to existing and future victims of asbestos related disease".

The council was "outraged at James Hardie's behaviour", Cr Murphy said.

The Mayor of Bankstown, Helen Westwood, who is also president of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, said a local government boycott "affects the bottom line, and that seems to be what they respond to". She said: "I'm hoping that all local government will boycott James Hardie products. Perhaps then they'll be willing to act in a way that they should have in the beginning."

The Blue Mountains Mayor, Jim Angel, said he expected the council to boycott James Hardie products after a meeting next Tuesday night.

A James Hardie spokesman said the company was "addressing all our issues through the commission process and that's really all we're saying".

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