Saturday, September 29, 2007

Agents baulk at paper weights

Agents baulk at paper weights Font Size:
By Sally Jackson

THE weightiness of the The West Australian -- in grams, that is, not gravitas -- is one of a long list of issues the Australian Newsagents' Federation wants to discuss with publisher West Australian Newspapers.

ANF chief executive Rayma Creswell said some editions of the paper were so heavy that home-delivering them had become an occupational health and safety hazard.

"Newsagents are not meant to be throwing papers that weigh more than 600g and they're throwing papers weighing 1.2kg," Ms Creswell said. "If we're throwing a very large paper after the population is out of bed, all of us are at risk."

One option may be to split big papers into more sections, she said. "We're not saying create a paper that is specifically designed for us, but we are saying it is an issue."

Last week ANF was given the green light by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to collectively bargain on behalf of about 380 newsagents in WA, despite objections from WAN, the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores and the Queensland Newsagents Federation.

The notification is in addition to one put in place in 2004 and lasts for three years. It does not compel WAN to enter into a collective negotiation and chief executive Ken Steinke said the company would not do so.

"We don't have any problem with the ANF contributing ideas, but we're not seeing them as a collective bargaining agent," Mr Steinke said.

"We have individual contracts with individual distributors ... We start from a different premise (than the ANF): what is in the best interests of our customers. We wouldn't do anything that would see costs increase to our customers or our services decrease."

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said allowing the newsagents to collectively bargain did not reduce WAN's ability to negotiate individual agreements. "There are a number of features of the arrangement which limit the potential for anti-competitive impact, including the respective bargaining positions of Western Australian newsagents and WAN," Mr Samuel said.

"Additionally, the arrangement is voluntary and does not involve potential boycotts."

The ANF said it "reserves its right to use the collective boycott provision in a further notification should the current collective negotiations fail".

"Collective boycott would be a last resort and it isn't what we seek at all. But if people are walking away from their businesses they have nothing to lose," Ms Creswell said. "This would be an opportune moment to sit down (with WAN) in a positive way, as we currently do with Fairfax and News Limited (publisher of The Australian)."

Ms Creswell said other issues the ANF wanted to discuss included delivery fees, co-ordinating promotional activities and the timeliness of deliveries to newsagents.

Mr Steinke said he would be concerned by any suggestion of a collective boycott. "It would have huge implications for our customers," he said.