Proposal to take paid tea breaks away from Parliament House security officers

Security staff at Parliament House could lose their paid tea breaks, according to a leaked email, under a wide-ranging review of roster arrangements that management agrees could be seen as "provocative". 

The correspondence sent on behalf of the first assistant secretary in the building and asset management division, Neil Skill, said staff would be consulted on any changes and would be given 28 days' notice before any changes to work practices.  

"In a rostered environment change can be a particularly sensitive and perhaps provocative issue and we recognise that PSS (security) officers have personal lives that need to be balanced with rostered arrangements," said the email, which outlined a number of other changes, most of which cannot be reported for security reasons. 

"Having said that, we are obliged to manage rosters in a way that delivers the best value for money and delivers the services that we provide in the most cost effective manner."

The email said the proposed changes to the master roster had been brought up at the workplace consultative committee on June 12.

It also said the obligations of the Fair Work Act will be honoured and the views of staff would be sought before final decisions are made.


Staff were told they could provide feedback until June 27. 

It is understood that security staff at Parliament House receive two 20-minute breaks a day during standard shifts, generally one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Perhaps the highest profile role of the security staff is to screen people entering the building, including visitors and people who work at Parliament House.  

Part of the job involves remaining stationed at certain entry points to the building for set periods of time.

A Department of Parliamentary Services spokeswoman said breaks that are unpaid were not in jeopardy.

The spokeswoman said the department regularly reviewed roster arrangements to ensure services were operationally effective, cost efficient and offered best value for money for taxpayers.  

"DPS has flagged to staff in the security branch that rosters and underlying long-term practices are being reviewed," the spokeswoman said.  

"The practices under review include paid morning and afternoon tea breaks, which currently occur in security branch but not in other parts of DPS. 

"Security staff are being consulted as part of this review. 

"No decisions have been taken and feedback is currently being sought from staff."

Security at Capital Hill can be a sensitive issue. 

It was reported last month that a year-long trial of security arrangements at Parliament House had been slammed as guards and workers struggled at the building's entry points

It was announced that MPs, their families and staff, and federal employees would not be screened by metal detectors or X-ray machines at private entry points under a trial designed to speed up access.  

Journalists, contractors, diplomats and members of the public were still required to be screened, as well as anyone entering through the building's main entrance.

Under the plan, approved by Parliament House's presiding officers, those exempted from metal detector checks would be subject to random screening.

Days after the concerns about new arrangements were reported, Liberal senator Bill Heffernan smuggled a pipe bomb into the building to make a point about declining security standards.