JOINT PRESS STATEMENT: At Woolworths AGM Palestinian journalist invites Directors to her homeland
1 December 2015
At the Woolworths Shareholder AGM yesterday morning, a Palestinian woman presented a personal invitation to the directors of Woolworths to visit her homeland, Palestine.
Ms Rania Awwad, a Palestinian Christian from the town of Bethlehem in Palestine, appealed to Woolworths' Directors to end their relations with Israel in the same manner that international companies terminated their relations with Apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. Awwad’s plea was supported by various shareholders present including an elderly Jewish woman who was at the AGM. Rania Awwad was part of the #BoycottWoolworths shareholder-activists who attended yesterday's Woolworths AGM in Cape Town.
At yesterday's AGM, Woolworths again claimed that it stocks Israeli products but not Israeli settlement products or products sourced from the Israeli occupied Palestinian Territories. This was welcomed by activists as Woolworths refraining from sourcing products from the Israeli occupied areas / settlements is not specifically mandated by South African Government policy which shows that Woolworths is prepared to go beyond the minimum legal requirements. Woolworths has taken a step in the right direction and set a precedent for itself, the shareholder activists explained, and now it needs to go one step further an end all purchase of Israeli products.
Woolworths also acknowledged, disappointingly, that they have neither done any investigation into the labour, ecological and other ethical practices of their Israeli partners nor into how their Israeli service providers implicitly and/or explicitly benefit from Israel’s systemic violation of international law as requested from them by shareholders in 2014. However, Mr Ian Moir of Woolworths did confirm at the meeting that they will investigate the matter at some point in time. Israel’s abuse of Palestinian labor, the environment and other unethical practices are widely documented, specifically in the agricultural sector.
At yesterday's AGM, the company was completely thrown off with shareholder-activists going beyond the boycott of Israel to also challenge the company on its outsourcing of security to G4S, its labor practices and specifically its dispute with workers at the WW Gauteng Distribution Centre. Activists pointed the discrepancy between directors receiving 40%-70% salary increases while some workers were being paid as little as R3500 at one of the largest and busiest WW distribution centres in the country. Furthermore activists argued that Woolworths hypocritically claimed that they support education for example with their Pharrell Williams marketing campaign yet they provide only R250 a year as an education allowance for the children of their Distribution Centre workers as reported by trade union representatives.
Yesterday's Woolworths AGM was, by all accounts, dominated by the boycott Israel campaign. Activists have pledged to return to next year’s AGM with more vigour and strength, unless of course, Woolworths decides to do the sensible and right thing - ending its buying and stocking of Israeli products.
Attached find a list of some of the questions that were raised at yesterday’s AGM.
JOINTLY ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL COALITION 4 PALESTINE (NC4P) AND BDS SA. FOR INFORMATION:
Reverend Edwin Arrison, NC4P: 0847351835
Kwara Kekana, BDS South Africa: 0740543826
Palestinian journalist, Rania Awwad: 0748678284
BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL IN SOUTH AFRICA (BDS SOUTH AFRICA)
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