A customs worker. Photo: Craig Abraham
Customs agents say a move by their bosses to make them wear name tags at work puts them at risk of revenge attacks and intimidation by international gangsters.
Workplace health and safety authority Comcare is so concerned that it has ordered the Australian Customs and Border Protection Agency to hold talks with staff over the row.
Staff at the 5000-strong agency appealed to Comcare after being told late last year they would have to wear badges with their full names as part of a new corporate dress code.
Officers said they were worried that organised crime syndicates might be able to use the information on the badges to find them and their families and threaten or intimidate officers into illegal activity.
There were also fears of officers being traced by members of the travelling public with a grudge over their treatment by customs officials.
A Comcare spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday that a workplace ''improvement notice'' was issued last month and that Customs was given a December 4 deadline to comply.
It is understood the notice orders Customs to consult staff required to display their full names and to discuss options such as using first initials and surnames.
''This improvement notice … required Customs to consult their workers further in relation to the uniform policy, specifically relating to display of workers' names on name badges,'' a Comcare spokeswoman said.
''Customs requested a review of the improvement notice. The review was undertaken and some minor amendments were made to the original notice.''
A Customs spokesman said the issue had been around for some time.
''The requirement for officers with public contact to wear full name badges was introduced in December 2012 as part of the new Dress and Appearance Standards policy,'' he said. ''The visible display of our frontline officers' names aligns the service with law enforcement practices and demonstrates transparency and public accountability in exercising our powers at the border.
''All ACBPS officers are required to wear ACBPS ID cards, and officers working in designated security areas of international airports area also required to wear Aviation Security Identification Cards.''
The spokesman said Customs was reviewing its policy for granting exemptions.
''In late 2012, concerns about the full name badge policy, in relation to officer safety, were expressed by officers and their representatives,'' he said.
''In response, the service undertook a risk assessment and subsequently modified its policy to include the option to wear a name badge displaying either first initial and surname or full name.''
The spokesman said Customs had already carried out an internal review of the name badge policy.
He said the service also began a review of its exemption policy for wearing of name tags.
The process was in its final stages.
''On 6 August Comcare issued ACBPS with an improvement notice (IN) in relation to our handling of the name badge issue. ACBPS sought a review of this IN and Comcare has revised it.''
The service was already dealing with issues raised by Comcare when the notice was issued. It would be compliant with Comcare requirements by the December 4 deadline.