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Security employees exploited, union says

Date

Noel Towell

One of Canberra's biggest security firms, which guards dozens of federal and ACT government buildings, is facing multiple actions by two workplace authorities over allegations of widespread exploitation, underpayments and bullying.

Sydney-based SNP Security, which holds about $28 million in security contracts with Commonwealth agencies, is facing complaints to the Fair Work Ombudsman and WorkSafe ACT from five of its workers who claim they have been systematically overworked and underpaid for several years.

The United Voice union has also asked WorkCover ACT to investigate the company's wider workplace practices, alleging a culture of bullying, threats and intimidation against guards who speak out.

The company, which has contracts to guard high-security defence installations as well as the Attorney-General's Department and CrimTrac, said yesterday that it was taking the complaints seriously, but insisted that it applied high standards to its staff relations and corporate governance.

In a separate bullying complaint to WorkCover ACT, one of the workers says the company took no action after a supervisor allegedly used foul language about the guard's critically ill two-year-old daughter.

The five complaints to Fair Work, seen by The Canberra Times, relate mostly to guards being asked to work long shifts and then being underpaid for the overtime.

United Voice delegate Yvette Berry said SNP guards typically worked shifts longer that 12 hours and that the flat pay rate of $17.38 an hour forced them to work extra shifts with disputes commonly arising over payment for the extra hours.

''We've had a number of security officers who are members of United Voice who have made complaints over a number of years about this company,'' Ms Berry said.

''Most of these complaints have been around unreasonable overtime but also the underpayments of that overtime.

''They are being ripped off in their wages, not paid correctly and when they complain about non-payment, they are threatened and intimidated.''

Ms Berry said the union wanted the guards on Commonwealth and ACT government buildings to have working conditions at least comparable to the occupants of those buildings.

''These are the people who secure and watch over our buildings … you would expect that the people that perform that work would have the same rights and entitlements as the people who work in those buildings,'' the union organiser said.

''What we're finding with this particular company is that that's not the case, that the people who guard those buildings are being treated like second-class citizens.

''The people of Canberra would, we think, be outraged if they knew how the people doing the work in their buildings, that greet them each morning, get treated.''

SNP managing director Tony Roche told The Canberra Times he was aware of the complaints and was prepared to work with Fair Work to resolve them.

''SNP Security is taking these allegations very seriously and is working closely with the Fair Work Ombudsman,'' he said.

''It is important to note that the security industry was audited by the [Fair Work Ombudsman], with our full co-operation, in 2009 and followed up in 2011; and the results of this audit are not yet known.

''SNP Security is very conscious of its obligation to provide a safe work environment for its employees.

''SNP employs two full-time members of staff to ensure all of its internal practices and site processes are in place to safeguard employees whilst working on site,'' Mr Roche said.

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