Supermarket giant Woolworths is under pressure to use its influence to stop the closure of the Caltex oil refinery at Kurnell, which would cost more than 700 jobs and leave NSW without refining capacity.
A campaign launched by the Australian Workers Union on Tuesday urged the public to ''send a message'' to Woolworths that they wanted only ''Aussie fuel'' at those service stations which the retailer operates with Caltex.
More than 100 Kurnell workers and supporters marched through the city to the retailer's flagship Town Hall store, where they were told by union leaders it was a fight too important to lose - one which was not just about their jobs, but also about national security.
Caltex began a review of refinery operations late last year and is due to make an announcement within weeks.
National secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, told the rally if Woolworths ''wants to stay as the 'Australian fresh food people', they have also got to say they are the 'Australian fresh fuel people'''.
If Kurnell closed, he said that refineries in other states would eventually follow, and Woolworths would become the ''Singaporean fresh fuel people''.
''For the sake of making a few measly extra dollars, they will toss out 700 fine Australian workers at Kurnell, and you will see that also happen in other states,'' he said.
''The big oil companies would be more than happy to leave Australia in a vulnerable position by reducing our refining capacity to zero, and be completely reliant on imports from Singapore.''
''If, heaven forbids, there is ever a war or conflict or a natural emergency in Singapore or in Asia, do you really think the Singaporean government is going to say, 'We need this fuel for our own emergency, but we had better send some off to Australia'. Of course not!''
Mr Howes said fuel from Singapore would also be dearer because they refined a different type of crude oil, meaning higher prices for Australian motorists.
The closure of the Kurnell operation would also have a major effect on a generation of young workers growing up in Sutherland Shire.
He urged the public to join the protest at tellwoolworths.org/
Do you think Woolworths should do more to save workers jobs at the Caltex Kurnell refinery?
Copyright 2012 Fairfax Media Publications Pty. Limited. All Rights Reserved.
(Originally published July 11, 2012, in St. George & Sutherland Shire Leader.)