Protest hailed a success: further action planned

A bigger than expected turnout of school buses clogged Adelaide’s CBD this afternoon, drawing attention to a running dispute with the Rann Government

Protest hailed a success: further action planned
Protest hailed a success: further action planned

By David Goeldner | July 22, 2011

Adelaide’s CBD was crammed with more than a hundred school buses parading through the city’s streets earlier today as part of a protest action over alleged unfair treatment of school bus operators by the Rann Government.

An estimated 55 percent of incumbent school bus operators contracted through the Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) look likely to lose their contracts through a tendering process started earlier this year.

The Bus and Coach Association of South Australia led the rally, hailing it a success after attracting a large crowd of protesters to the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide this afternoon.

BCASA Executive Director Sonia St Alban says Premier Mike Rann and Education Minister Jay Weatherill were invited to address the rally, but neither responded to the Association’s invitation.

Speakers at the rally included Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond, Family First’s Robert Brokenshire, and Shadow Transport Minister Steven Griffiths, each pledging support for the BCASA’s position that the school bus contract process currently in place should be scrapped and local school bus contracts re-instated to the incumbent operators.

"We’ve got the support behind us now and we need to stand up for the rights of local operators and people in regional areas," St Alban says.

"This is about real people, real families, and real jobs."

BCASA President Roger Quinsey says an injustice is being done to people who have held school bus service contracts for many years.

"This situation is not acceptable," he says.

"The Government needs to revisit this matter and the way these operators have been dealt with is poor."

Quinsey says several operators have continued to run their school bus services after December 2010 to the end of this year on extended DECS contracts, not knowing that they would lose their businesses.

"It’s all being done with goodwill by the operators," he says.

DECS contracts were due to conclude last December, which Quinsey says should have been dealt with inside the ten year period leading up to expiry.

"Why was it necessary for the Government not to deal with those contracts in the appropriate timeframe and why did they put those contractors off," Quinsey asked, also alleging DECS had meanwhile negotiated with metropolitan route service contractors to take over the runs, one of which won many of the services that Quinsey’s members had recently lost.

"There’s ill feeling towards the Government for allowing a situation like this to occur," he says.

Quinsey says he is prepared to ‘do his best’ to get DECS’ contracting and procurement procedures changed, and today’s protest action is the first of many steps towards a resolution.

"The people’s voice was very clear today," he says.

"These people have nothing to lose because they have already been told that this Government doesn’t want to deal with them."

A petition is being prepared for Monday morning, which will be attached to the BCASA website and circulated amongst state Members of Parliament.

St Alban says several Association members had indicated to her today they would join another rally considered for two weeks time.

"If need be we will have another rally, most definitely," she says.

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