Around 100 members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) and the Association of Newsagents Cooperative Ltd (ANCOL) gathered outside the South Australian parliament to protest against the loss of local jobs to two multinational companies based in Victoria. Members of the Australian Education Union also joined the rally.
The NUW workers were employed by local stationery supplier KW Wholesale Stationers. KW Ancol runs a warehouse owned and operated by a cooperative of around 380 independent newsagencies across SA.
For nearly 40 years, the SA government has awarded the contract for stationery supplies to SA public schools to KW Ancol.
Now, however, under Labor Premier Jay Weatherill’s “left” leadership, the government has put the contract out to tender.
The cheapest tenders came from two interstate-based multinationals who engage labour through labour hire companies and who undercut the SA award rates paid by KW Ancol.
In the pre-neoliberal days when governments at least paid lip-service to some sort of social function, government tenders were often directed to achieving social goals, such as local employment.
In today’s world, where competition policy rules the roost, and the market determines the outcome of government contract tenders, anyone who can push wages down, casualise labour, and deliver a cheaper service wins the race.
David Garland, from the NUW, said “It is shocking that a Labor Government is contributing directly to the growth of temporary forms of employment by the way they are doing their own business”.
AUE President Correna Haythorpe reported complaints already coming in from schools about the poor quality of service provided by the multinational contractors.
Politicians from all sides expressed support for the local workers and their employer: Family First, the Greens, the Liberal Party, two ALP members of parliament, and an Independent.