20 March 2024

Cheyne says Green Shed jobs are safe, questions Clay involvement with petition

| Ian Bushnell
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Tara Cheyne MLA.

City Services Minister Tara Cheyne: Petition was started in the incorrect belief that the Green Shed would be closing. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

City Services Minister Tara Cheyne has confirmed that any Green Shed employee who wants a job with new operator Vinnies will have one.

Ms Cheyne was speaking in response to a petition lodged by Greens MLA Jo Clay that had gathered more than 7000 names in the immediate aftermath of the announcement that Vinnies had been awarded the contact to run the recycling and retail business at the Mugga Lane and Mitchell tips.

The announcement last week generated an outpouring of support on social media for the current operators, Charlie Big-Wither and his wife Sandie Parkes.

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Ms Cheyne told the Assembly that the petition was started in the incorrect belief that the Green Shed would be closing and its 80 or so employees would lose their jobs.

“The distress in the community and particularly the impact on staff has been my primary focus since the announcement was made six days ago,” she said.

“I did receive confirmation yesterday that all staff whether they are employed in the Resource Management Centre or a shopfront will be offered employment by Vinnies if they wish to transition across.”

Ms Cheyne was also concerned that the petition which Ms Clay presented suggested that there had been political interference in the tender.

“Any suggestion that there should be political interference in a procurement process certainly raises some questions for me,” she said. “Not that I think that that was suggested in Ms Clay’s comments, but certainly that is how the petition is set out.”

Ms Cheyne alluded to a potential conflict of interest on Ms Clay’s part given that she acknowledged that the Green Shed helped start her own recycling business.

“I thank Ms Clay for being clear, just as she was in her inaugural speech, that she has an association with the Green Shed that is beyond being a concerned local member, or an avid shopper or donor,” she said.

“But what’s less clear to me was the nature of the support that the Green Shed provided Ms Clay in establishing her business, but I know that she has variously described that it was a business that she ran with the Green Shed and being the Green Shed’s latest recycling venture.”

Ms Clay is no longer involved in the business, GGJC Pty Ltd, but a company search shows a former Green Shed director Goran Srejic was a director and shareholder until 2021, Green Shed director Sandie Parkes was shareholder until 2021 and that the two businesses shared the same city address until 2020.

Ms Cheyne told the Assembly a Green Shed style business had been operating in some form since 1988, and the current operators had won a contract to run it in 2010.

She acknowledged that the longevity of the current ownership and rolling contracts might have given the impression it was a permanent arrangement.

“It was inevitably synonymous with and for many people became the Resource Centre rather than the perception that it was managing it as a business for the ACT Government,” she said.

This did not detract from the contribution the Green Shed had made to the community or the circular economy.

Ms Cheyne said the many years of contract extensions had created a paradoxical situation of uncertainty, “but also that this was the norm and to be expected”.

“I acknowledge that the government could certainly have done better in explaining this process, not just to those interested in submitting a proposal, but to the entire community,” she said.

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Ms Cheyne also said the way in which Transport Canberra and City Services announced the tender decision was regrettable and that it had apologised.

“There are very clear lessons apparent,” she said. “The communication about the process and the decision to the community to my office, and to the Green Shed and its employees was not the standard the ACT Government or the community expects.”

ACT Senator David Pocock held an information session with Vinnies spokesperson Phillip Jones at the Canberra Bridge Club in Deakin on Tuesday (19 march) afternoon.

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So its not corrupt because we applied the right process which we decided to run. Even though it seems like that process wasn’t followed for a long time. So the question is why now?

Ebonairre Theron6:55 pm 21 Mar 24

You’ll be offered jobs at Vinnie’s….but with the same wage and agreements?

likely not. a repeat of the rubish contract with strikes?

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