Dare to challenge the mighty Boycott Countdown gang..? Expect threats of violence. Oh, and let Aussie burn..

Countdown staff and supporters who dare stand up to boycotters and voice opinions in favour of the chain and management have long been vilified, bullied and belittled for their stance.

A Kiwi expat living in Australia who has been openly challenging the boycott of Countdown and the xenophobic attitudes aimed at Australians (which are regularly expressed by a small mob of boycott supporters) has been threatened with brutal violence – by an extremist supporter of Nevan Lancaster’s “Boycott Countdown” facebook page.

Screen shots of the offender’s very violent threats were taken and sent to the police. Initially copies were posted on several pages including  Lancaster’s page, challenging him to control the extremist views which have been boiling over for some time.
As the complainant has confirmed it is now a police matter I am unable to show the offender’s threatening messages. What I can do is show you Lancaster’s response.

violence wp edit

Does this mean he condones such behaviour from his followers? Or is it just another “tongue in cheek” reply (as Lancaster would evidently have us believe), similar to the ‘let Aussie burn’ comment?

Another poster who is also a Kiwi expat living in Australia challenged this sentiment recently. He described Lancaster’s response:
“When I brought up his “let Aussie burn” statement with someone else, he replied with a rather ambiguous comment about how I should learn what a question mark denotes. I think what he was trying to say is that it’s perfectly acceptable to make such suggestions, as long as they’re framed as a question.”
Below is his challenge and Lancaster’s response.

justify that burn comment

If you haven’t seen the infamous post yet, here it is.
burn wp edit

To date, it has not been removed from the page, despite widespread criticism. It has 37 ‘likes’.

What next… stalking and threats aimed at people who work for or supply to the chain..?
When has it gone too far? It would appear that time has been and gone.



Such a simple little adverb.
It has been applied a lot lately when the very real concerns around the stability of  jobs and shift security for countdown staff are bought up.
Pro-boycotters argue that:

“They can just get new jobs..”
“Demand will just go up in other supermarkets..”
New world and Pak’n’Save will just hire them..”

The same applies when the pro-boycott types are asked,
“But what about the suppliers to Countdown? What happens when the stores are forced to reduce orders to reflect a downturn in sales..?”

Can you guess the typical response?

“But they’ll just sell to other stores..”
“Other supermarkets will just pick up the slack..”

Before we go further, let’s remind ourselves of the definition of “just’ in this form.
Taken from Dictionary.com –

1) within a brief preceding time; but a moment before:

2) exactly or precisely:

3) only or merely:

4) actually; really; positively:The use of the word ‘just’ in this sense has come to be nothing more than a condescension. A way to belittle the welfare of the people who are really feeling the pinch – the front line staff and suppliers who will be seeing orders drop.
The word ‘just’ in this sense completely ignores the reality of economics.
In real life, transfer of employment or sales of goods and services take time. It is not instantaneous. And equal or improved replacement of your previous arrangement is never guaranteed. I don’t have a qualification in economics or business, and even I know this.
Do you know who does have a degree in economics? The creator of the Boycott Countdown facebook page, Nevan Lancaster.

Mr Lancaster has owned a small business in Tauranga for a number of years -so perhaps he considers himself an expert? But there is a notable difference between a small, privately owned business and a large, multinational business such as Countdown.
He also believes that Countdown sends “100%” of its profits back to Australia retaining none in NZ.
CD heaps of money wp

When the “Boycott the Boycotter Bullies” facebook page was set up he spent quite a lot of time over the course of a couple of days posting ‘evidence’ and arguing for his cause, seemingly put out that someone dared voice an opinion differing to his.
One such claim of ‘evidence’ was the posting of a link for a recent Woolworths annual report where he insisted you could find the proof to show that 100% of profits were sent to Australia.
funnily enough, nowhere in the report does it say “100% of profits from Countdown stores’ earnings goes to Australia, leaving none in New Zealand.”

Which brings us back to that seemingly insignificant word, “Just..”.
A big fan of the ‘just’ word is Mr Lancaster. He’s used it over and over in the course of arguments for boycotting the supermarket chain.

Here he is rationalising how CD workers can ‘just’ get hired by rival supermarkets or that if the chain is bought out by another company it will retain all staff. He also addresses in the same post the concern suppliers will be affected and attempts to refute this with another ‘just’ scenario.  Source

My question is: How can a person who has studied economics truly believe these things would instantaneously happen and that everyone who was at risk would end up with new jobs and orders while not being affected at all in the meantime – or at least not significantly enough to be detrimental?

To begin with Countdown pays significantly better than other supermarkets – so any staff who transferred to another chain would ‘just’ have to accept a paycut and possibly less hours. Simple! What’s the problem?
Economics – that’s the problem.

In the event the CD chain was sold there is no guarantee they would keep on all staff. According to the Ministry of Business and Development, although any new owner of a sold business must by law retain any existing contracts between staff and their old employer there is no law that they must not lay off any staff. If they can justify this action no one can prevent them from doing so. They may site ‘restructuring’, for example. Economics once again!
Furthermore, there is no guarantee employees and suppliers would be satisfied with the new owners and how they might run the business.

All these suppositions are up in the air. In the meantime, staff (and suppliers) are still being affected now.

Perhaps Mr. Lancaster needs to go back and up skill. Things have changed just slightly since 1991, when he graduated.

Reader Contribution: Aussie v NZ: The Supermarkets Saga

How did the brouhaha begin? Where has it gone? Where could it all possibly go? Check out our Timeline of keystone events.

 13 December 2013:

The NBR reports Australian supermarkets Coles and Woolworths are systematically removing NZ-produced goods from their “house-brand” labels simply for being “non-Australian”. The story goes largely unnoticed by New Zealanders.


24 January 2013:

NBR reports again on the issue confirming Australia’s supermarket giants are taking NZ-made products off their shelves in an aggressive effort to back the government’s “Buy Australian” campaign. The supermarkets say they are supporting the demands of the people, who want to buy Australian-made products.


3 Feb 2014:

Latest Public Opinion Poll has National on 44.5%, Labour 33.5%, the Greens 12.4% and NZ First 5.7%.


5 Feb 2014:

“Boycott Countdown”, a Facebook page calling for New Zealanders to boycott Australian-owned Countdown stores in NZ as protest against their owners ban on NZ-made products in Australia is established.


6 Feb 2014:

PM John Key attends a high-level meeting with Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott in Sydney. High on the agenda is the supermarkets issue. Key leaves the meeting, having received no tangible support from Abbott.


7 Feb 2014:

The Labour Party calls for country of origin labelling in response to the issue. And “Boycott the Boycotter Bullies: protect Countdown NZ” a page concerned for the potential social/economic impact a boycott could have on Countdown NZ workers and the economy overall is established on Facebook.


10 Feb 2014:

Countdown NZ Managing Director Dave Chambers releases a statement, saying Countdown are committed to supporting local NZ suppliers and media reports of a ban on NZ-made goods in Australian Woolworths stores are incorrect.


11 Feb 2014:

Boycott Countdown page ‘likes’ hit 1000.


  12 Feb 2014:

Under the protection of Parliamentary Privilege, Labour MP Shane Jones alleges New Zealand suppliers are being blackmailed into making payments to Australian owned supermarket chain Countdown to ensure their products continue to be stocked.

 Countdown NZ denies the allegations.

 Industry watchdog the Commerce Commission confirms concerns about negotiating practices have been made by several NZ producers/suppliers.


13 Feb 2014:

Countdown NZ Managing Director Dave Chambers and Labour MP Shane Jones appear on TV 3’s Campbell Live. Mr Chambers denies Mr Jones’ allegations, which he refuses to repeat outside of Parliament. Mr Jones calls on the Commerce Commission to investigate the allegations and to guarantee the anonymity of producers/suppliers giving testimony.

 Boycott Countdown’s people likes hit 6000.


14 Feb 2014:

PM John Key expresses concern that Labour MP Shane Jones’ allegations have no evidence to back them up.

 Boycott Countdown issue a statement affirming the calls for a boycott. But they make it clear they do not condone abuse or harassment of Countdown NZ staff.

 Countdown staff head online, voicing concerns that they could lose their jobs if the threatened boycott impacts on Countdown business.

 The Commerce Commission confirms whistleblowers wishing to give evidence about alleged unfair business practices by Countdown will be able to do so confidentially.


15 Feb 2014:

PM John Key again queries why Labour MP Shane Jones is not backing up his allegations without the protection of parliamentary privilege.

 Boycott Countdown people likes hit 8000.

 Countdown NZ Managing Director Dave Chambers, says on the day Labour MP Shane Jones made allegations about Countdown practices, he called in his senior colleagues to ensure none were making demands without his knowledge, before denying the allegations.


16 Feb 2014:

News reports state an Australian dairy company intends to set up business in NZ – in direct competition with NZ dairy producers.


 18 Feb 2014:

PM John Key goes public, saying he will not boycott Countdown NZ stores on the back of ‘unsubstantiated’ allegations. He also signals a formal inquiry by the Commerce Commission will take place.

 Boycott Countdown people likes hit 9000.


19 Feb 2014:

Labour MP Shane Jones makes further allegations in Parliament, accusing  Woolworths Australian chairman Ralph Waters of “leaning on” local suppliers to discourage them from taking part in a Commerce Commission inquiry into the supermarket giant’s business practices.

 Mr Waters releases a strongly worded statement, denying the allegations.

 Mr Jones also singles out a Countdown manager whom he refuses to name, accusing him of extorting cash payments from suppliers by threatening not to stock their goods.

 Countdown NZ respond, saying they are confused by the allegations regarding the manager and reject the allegations.

 The NZ Retailers Association requests Mr Jones to make his allegations without the protection afforded by Parliament but he refuses again.

 Boycott Countdown people likes hit 9000.


20 Feb 2014:

The Commerce Commission confirms it will formally investigate allegations of anti-competitive behavior towards suppliers by Countdown and assured anonymity for those who require it.

 Mr Jones defends his decision to raise the issue under the protection of Parliamentary Privilege, but concedes he may have used some “hyperbole” to make his point.


23 Feb 2014:

 Woolworths Australian chairman Ralph Waters speaks to the NZ Herald, saying he was furious at allegations his company had boycotted New Zealand products, and that its NZ subsidiary Countdown had demanded retrospective payments from suppliers under threat of being taken off the shelves.

 He also rejects Labour MP Shane Jones’ claim, made under parliamentary privilege, that he had rung suppliers telling them to not co-operate with a pending Commerce Commission inquiry or Woolworths would drop their products from Australian shelves.

 Latest Public Opinion Poll has National on 51%, Labour 34%, the Greens 8% and NZ First 3%.

Dave Chambers does an excellent job: voices from employees

I have seen a range of positive comments and compliments on social media and in news discussion forums regarding Dave Chambers by those who have met him within the Countdown chain.

Here is a selection of those comments.

“…he remembers our names and always says hello…”
“..he is interested in how things are going for us..”
“..he cares about the staff…”
“..Mr Chambers and Brett Ashley are both top notch blokes..they treat everyone equally..”
“…all complaints are addressed no matter how big or small…”
“…head office do care..”
“..I have a lot of respect for him..”

Hardly the ‘ruthless bully’ he is being made out to be by those who are doing their best to dag him down into the mud and drown him in it.