Cage eggs no longer off menu

CAGE eggs could be back on the menu at Tasmanian public hospitals, prisons and schools, under changes to procurement practices designed to cut red tape.

Treasurer Peter Gutwein has lifted a requirement for government agencies to buy only free-range eggs implemented by the previous government.

``This was an unnecessary level of red tape that threatened local jobs and was simply another case of Labor pandering to the Greens,'' Mr Gutwein said yesterday. 

The move comes too late to affect a contract set to be awarded soon for food and beverage for Tasmania's major hospitals, but will apply to any new tenders advertised. 

Opposition Leader Bryan Green said the change could backfire. 

``Tasmanian farmers have been moving out of battery farming over the past two years, backed by assistance funding,'' Mr Green said.

``With Tasmanian producers phasing out battery hen farming, the government's desire to find cheaper eggs could send contracts interstate.''

Mr Gutwein also announced yesterday government agencies would be free to hire cleaning companies that did not comply with a union agreement covering workers' conditions.

He denied the change would lead to lower wages for cleaners of government offices. 

``This is about ensuring that more Tasmanian businesses can compete for contracts and cleaners will, of course, be paid their proper entitlements under their award,'' Mr Gutwein said. 

The union representing cleaners, United Voice, said it was not surprised the Liberals would scrap the arrangement. 

``The only thing that is surprising is that this is high on the priority list to do,'' United Voice secretary Helen Gibbons said. 

She doubted the move would save the government any money as the Clean Start agreement negotiated by the union had not yet led to better wages for cleaners. 

``There's a lot of cowboy cleaning contract companies out there who bid the lowest price to get the contract,'' she said.

``When we go low, what that means is stripping away conditions and entitlements that respect these low-paid workers.'' 

Cleaning services for the Department of Treasury and Finance offices in Hobart are likely to be among the first to be subject to the change when it expires in June.  


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