Protesters Rally After OfficeMax Wins SA Stationery Contract



South Australian Premier faces a backbench revolt after the State Government awarded a lucrative school stationery contract to multinational company OfficeMax ahead of SA-owned KW Wholesale Stationers.

Labor backbenchers Frances Bedford and Leesa Vlahos joined a protest rally against the decision on the steps of Parliament House today, with Ms Bedford joining the chant of "Save Our Jobs!` and holding a placard reading "Government Sends Jobs Interstate and Overseas."



Ms Bedford also addressed the crowd of about 100 people saying the matter had been raised in Caucus and MPs were concerned with the tender process.

"It is up to the Government to listen to the community," she told the rally. "You have the right to bring your concern to Parliament, and activism is your right. It is sad you have had to come here today."

Mr Weatherill`s Parliamentary Secretary Leesa Vlahos said she attended the protest because she wanted to make sure "the community gets the best outcome".

Independent, Greens, Family First and Liberal MPs also attended the rally but Premier Jay Weatherill and Finance Minister Michael O`Brien did not show.

In a statement, Mr O`Brien said the Government received eight submissions from an open tender aiming for the best value for taxpayers.

"To now dismantle the contracts would damage the State`s commercial reputation and expose the State to legal risk," he said.

"It`s unfortunate ANCOL employees have lost job security as a result of management`s deficient tender submission."

The rally was sparked by the Government decision to include school stationery in a `Whole of Government` contract.

KWWS, owned by newsagents` cooperative ANCOL, has supplied stationery to schools for more than 40 years and has more than 100 employees at Allenby Gardens and Elizabeth West.

KWWS manager Grant Eckert said the business now faced laying off up to one third of its workforce and workers were on reduced wages and shorter weeks to save jobs in the hope the Government would exclude schools from the new contract.

"Supplying education-specific products is imperative for our viability but represents only a small percentage of value in the Whole of Government contract," Mr Eckert said.

In an unusual alliance speakers at the rally ranged from National Union of Workers state organiser Dave Garland, who said under the new contract, stationery was being bussed in from the new suppliers` Melbourne headquarters, to Opposition Leader, Steven Marshall who pledged to support South Australian small businesses.

Australian Education Union state president Correna Haythorpe told the rally schools were already having problems with the new suppliers, such as one that received 10,000 exercise books that had not been collated, leaving school staff to do the work, and others being told there were no guarantees of delivery times.

KWWS has a legal opinion saying schools can be excluded from the Whole of Government contract - understood to be worth about $40 million - without the Government facing any penalty. 

Source:   Adelaide Advertiser Newspaper  March 20th 2013.

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