15 March 2024

Call for calm: Time to move on, says Green Shed boss

| Ian Bushnell
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stock inside The Greed Shed

Green Shed stock and assets will be on the negotiating table in the coming weeks as part of the transition. Photo: The Green Shed.

Green Shed co-owner Charlie Bigg-Wither has sought to quell the social media frenzy that erupted after news broke that the ACT Government had awarded Vinnies the contract to run the reuse facilities at Mugga Lane and Mitchell.

Mr Bigg-Wither posted a lengthy statement on Facebook last night (14 March) thanking supporters, but saying it was time to move on and acknowledge that the change in ownership was the risk one took in contract businesses.

“We’re kind of overwhelmed and we’re so grateful for all the kind comments but Canberra has this ownership of The Green Shed even though it’s not theirs. They’ve started petitions and they’re doing this and they’re doing that and no one’s asked us about any of this stuff,” he told Region today.

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One petition had already gathered 6000 names, and some commentary was openly hostile to Vinnies.

Mr Bigg-Wither said his main concern was for the 80 or so employees, most of whom work part-time or on small hours. About a dozen work full-time.

A meeting between The Green Shed and Vinnies yesterday was inconclusive, and while all employees are invited to apply to join Vinnies, the charity could not guarantee everybody would have a job. Those that do stay would be employed under its enterprise agreement.

Mr Bigg-Wither said he expected about a dozen of his staff to transition across the country.

“We are encouraging them to apply and we’re going to be advocating for them because a lot of them are vulnerable people who aren’t necessarily good at advocating for themselves,” he said.

He had asked for another meeting next week when some of the emotion should have subsided.

Green Shed owners Charlie Bigg-Wither and Elaine Parkes: overwhelmed and grateful. Photo: Region.

Also on the table would be the Green Shed stock and assets, such as machinery and vehicles.

“We’re open to a smooth and easy walk-in/walk-out exchange where they can purchase all the machinery, trailers, trucks, even potentially the brand has been discussed, but we’re not decided about that one yet,” Mr Bigg-Wither said.

He said The Green Shed would work with Vinnies to make it an easy transition for them.

“It’s just stupid to make it difficult for them. Why would we want to do that?” he said.

“We’ve lost it. We’re not getting it back. If they do a bad job, the community will sure let everybody know and it’ll be up for tender in five years’ time.”

But he believed Vinnies, being a charity and having fewer business restraints than a private venture, should be able to make a success of it.

“Imagine if every Vinnies in Australia actually set up a Green Shed and did it properly, like that’d be a legacy,” Mr Bigg-Wither said.

Vinnies spokesperson Phillip Jones said the organisation had never guaranteed all Green Shed staff would have a job, but the offer remained for them to apply to join Vinnies.

“The Green Shed staff currently employed there are most welcome to join the Vinnies family under our enterprise agreement and retain their roles,” he said.

“We’re going to have a very simple and straightforward transitional process to make it as easy for them as possible so that when we take over on 31 May, they can continue working at the facilities, or even in other locations like other shops if they wish to.”

Mr Jones said Vinnies was mindful of the vulnerable people working at The Green Shed and reassured them that there would also be employment opportunities for them.

He said discussions with the current operators regarding stock, machinery and vehicles would continue over the coming weeks.

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Asked if Vinnies had been shocked by the public reaction, Mr Jones said the organisation understood how strongly the community felt about The Green Shed.

“We honour and respect the values that the team out there have worked so hard to create and maintain, and its contribution to Canberra,” he said.

“We will continue to honour and support that and enhance that going forward. We invite the community to join us on the journey as we make this transition as smooth as possible for everyone concerned. We look forward to running the facilities even more for the benefit of the community in the future.”

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