IN what has become a storm in a social media teacup, trade union Solidarity launched an all-out campaign yesterday to boycott Woolworths after the retail giant ignored a midday deadline to remove advertisements the union claims are racist towards white job-seekers.
Minutes after the deadline to remove the adverts from the retail chain's website, Solidarity kicked off its "Woolworse – Making a Differentiation" campaign, in a play on Woolworths' slogan, "Making a Difference".
The move follows a furore over the adverts – one of which called for "African black" candidates only – on social networks.
Outspoken celebrities like Afrikaans entertainer Steve Hofmeyer joined the chorus of protests with Twitter postings like: "Gonna be hard‚ but goodbye Woolies".
Three adverts for vacancies in the Western Cape, published on the Woolworths website, state that in accordance with employment equity, the positions were for coloured, black or Indian applicants. Woolworths has denied the adverts are racist.
"Like all South African companies, Woolworths has a role to play in transformation," it said. "For this reason, some positions [where there is under-representation] are [for] designated groups.
"The designated groups are Africans, coloureds, Indians, women and people with disability.
"It is not true that all positions are reserved for these designated groups."
However, Solidarity deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann said employment equity did not make provision for "absolute exclusions", as was the case with the advert that called for "African blacks" only.
"These adverts were for positions in the Western Cape where there are a lot of coloured people living," he said.
"To specify an 'African black' for a specific job therefore counteracts equal employment practices, because it implies that these coloured people might be excluded from getting the job."
Hermann said the campaign would be driven on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and a website established to encourage people to boycott Woolworths and its products.
"It's all systems go [for this campaign]."
The campaign is being supported by the Pro-Afrikaans Action Group (PRAAG), whose leader, Dr Dan Roodt, said "this latest manifestation of anti- white racism is the final straw" in the organisation's grievances with Woolworths.
"We are calling upon all our members and the general public, especially Afrikaners but all white South Africans and non-racist people of other population groups, to boycott Woolworths.
"We will communicate this classification to human rights groups worldwide, especially in countries with large European populations.
"We will also contact the Council of Europe and the European Human Rights Commission, requesting them to ban employees of Woolworths from obtaining visas," he said.