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World News Roundup – September 2019

Chile: Walmart strike ends
Walmart workers in Chile have ended a six-day strike after trade unionists won their demand for a pay rise. More than 17,000 employees had walked off the job, triggering the largest-ever strike in the country’s private sector history. The stand-off ended when salary increases, bonuses, training, and other benefits were agreed to by the retail giant.
Walmart has around 400 outlets in Chile, of which a third were affected by the industrial action. The corporation has been widely criticised in multiple countries for poor working conditions and low wages. American presidential candidate Bernie Sanders previously condemned Walmart for paying “starvation wages.”
The dispute had erupted after Walmart announced layoffs, caused by stores moving to automated functions. As technology has increasingly replaced workers, those remaining said they were being forced to juggle more tasks among fewer employees. 
“We do not want automation to produce massive layoffs,” said union spokesman Juan Moreno, when the plans were originally presented.
“Every day, we live with the threat of redundancy, of robot replacement.”
A Walmart spokeswoman told media the automation push was not “Walmart’s idea” but the way “clients have decided to shop.” She added: “The world is going through a digital transformation and we need to be a part of that.”

Australia: Eco-friendly Aussies refuse to buy green
Environmentally conscious Australians are refusing to buy green household products because they don’t believe they work as well as conventional brands, a new study has found. Despite being a nation that is collectively demanding more from its Government in tackling environmental issues, eco-friendly consumerism remains a fringe phenomenon in Australia. This so-called ‘green gap’ has long fascinated Dr Lay Peng Tan, a Senior Lecturer at Sydney’s Macquarie Business School, who has spent several years investigating the trend.
According to her latest research, there’s a list of common reasons why most consumers don’t buy green. First and foremost, many don’t believe eco-products perform as effectively as conventional ones. Focus group participants said things like, ‘I’d like to use this green brand of laundry powder but it doesn’t get the stains out.’”
Another key factor is the widespread belief that going green is a major commitment. Tan said: “Respondents believed purchasing environmentally friendly products required some or a lot of time and involved making significant sacrifices, such as giving up buying brands they were attached to.”
The research also found that green products are generally still perceived as alternatives to conventional ones. “Australians assume these products are purchased by hardcore environmentalists; that is, a group seen as standing apart from mainstream Australians,” explained Tan who added: “One of our respondents had two different soaps – green ones she used and conventional ones she put out when visitors were coming over.”

Indonesia: Bali wins plastic ban court battle
Indonesia’s number one resort island has banned single-use plastic in a bid to cut down on ocean pollution. The Plastic Recyclers Association and two local businesses had boldly challenged the new regulation in the Supreme Court but their request for a judicial review was rejected. Bali Governor Wayan Koster praised the verdict, adding: “All stakeholders must comply…to maintain the sacredness and harmony of Bali.”
It has been reported that more than 240 tonnes of rubbish is generated daily in the southern part of Bali alone, with 25 percent of it coming from tourism.

New Zealand: Pizza vegan prank backfires
A pizza chain has been slammed for serving thousands of customers fake meat on its ‘burger pizza’. When New Zealand’s HELL Pizza released the off-menu special featuring a ‘medium-rare burger patty’, it became a best seller around the country. However, when the business confessed a week later it had “taken more than 3000 customers by complete surprise”, it triggered a visit – and warning – from the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Pizza bosses said they made the switch “to see if people could tell the difference between a plant-based patty and a meat version” and to “raise awareness about sustainable food choices. The burger, however, consisted of pea and mung bean protein which poses a significant risk for people with peanut allergies. The vegan prank attracted a flood of online complaints: “Totally lost trust and any thin crust credibility…what were you thinking?” asked one customer. Another wrote: “Being served beans without me knowing would legit land me in hospital with a bowel obstruction.”
Ben Cumming, Hell Pizza’s General Manager, said: “We maintain we haven’t misled anyone. There was no specific mention of meat, and burgers come in all shapes with all sorts of ingredients.”

USA: Fish perish in whisky inferno
Thousands of fish have died in alcohol-polluted water following a Jim Beam warehouse blaze in Kentucky. The whiskey distillery inferno, which saw more than 45,000 barrels of bourbon whisky catch fire, caused an ‘alcohol plume’ in one river – estimated to be around 24 miles long.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said discolouration, foaming and odour were likely consequences. “The bacteria in the water is going after the food source, which is the sugar in the alcohol and so they deplete the oxygen,” said an emergency response team spokesman. “The fish start to become distressed, and they eventually die.”

New Zealand: Stores beef up security after vegan attack
A supermarket chain has been forced to step up security after activists continuously ambushed their meat products with pro-vegan stickers.
The labels, targeting Countdown stores, feature a range of messages including ‘this package contains the body of someone who did not want to die’ and ‘how can you be an animal lover and eat dead animals’.
Rod Slater, Beef and Lamb New Zealand Chief Executive, said people “shouldn’t forget these actions are vandalism”.
In a statement, Countdown said it works “closely with hundreds of local farmers to provide quality meat” and that “good animal welfare is at the heart of these partnerships”.

USA: KKR raids biscuit tin
Campbell’s soup company has reportedly agreed to sell its entire international division to New York-based private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) for $2.2 billion.
The business includes Australia’s iconic biscuit brand Arnott’s – which is the single biggest money spinner, accounting for around three-quarters of Campbell’s $1.4 billion in offshore sales. Arnott’s traces its Australian heritage back more than 170 years to the arrival of a Scottish baker named William Arnott.
American food giant Campbells, which bought Arnott’s in 1997, put its international business unit up for sale almost a year ago as part of a strategy to slash debts and return focus to North America where it boasts a strong market position. KKR is no stranger to the biscuit game, having organised a buyout of Nabisco in 1988 for $44 billion, which was the largest leveraged buyout at the time. The controversial deal was immortalised in a best-selling book called Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco.

USA: Is premium food killing canines?
A shift to boutique dog foods, often labelled as grain-free and made with non-meat ingredients such as peas, chickpeas, lentils and potatoes, may be contributing to dogs across America and Canada dying of heart disease. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has named 16 brands of popular dog foods linked to 560 cases of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. In nearly all cases, the dogs ate dry food. More than 90 percent of the sick dogs’ diets were grain-free and 93 percent had peas and/or lentils, the FDA said.
Experts warn there could be many more cases because there’s often little or no advance warning to pet owners when a dog is afflicted. However, several of the listed manufacturers hit back, declaring their products “safe” and the FDA warning “premature”.

Norway: Fishermen fear Brexit threat
Norway’s seafood industry has expressed fears over the impact of a hard Brexit, following Boris Johnsons appointment. Norway exports over 200,000 tonnes of seafood, worth £575 million, to the UK of which at least two thirds is salmon. It is the country’s fourth largest export market and Hans Frode Asmyhr, from the Norwegian Seafood Council said Britain’s departure was shaping up as the worst possible outcome for certain sectors of the industry including fish farmers and fishermen. “This is creating nervousness, mainly because no-one know what will happen in the future,” he said.

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