Contract security guards protecting government buildings in the ACT will be paid at a higher rate than their counterparts working in hotels, clubs, shopping complexes and other private venues if a living wage application to the Fair Work Commission is successful.
Guards Trevor Bennett and Richard Lupeituu lodged the application on Tuesday morning. It was expected to be served on employers later in the day or on Wednesday, said United Voice spokeswoman Erryn Cresshyull.
United Voice, the union that represents security guards, drafted the application, which only covers workers employed at government-owned sites.
"Our low pay is inappropriate for our dangerous work protecting Canberra's community," Mr Lupeituu, who is a United Voice union delegate, said in a statement. "Our wages are at poverty levels, regardless of our experience or seniority."
He said the award rate for a full time level one guard was $18.23 an hour or $693 a week. This is less than half the ACT's $1702 a week average wage. The top rate of pay, for a level five guard, is $19.89 an hour or $756 a week.
Chris Delaney, the industrial relations adviser to the Australian Security Industry Association Ltd, said that while the pay scales quoted were correct they did not take into account penalty rates which are paid on a pro rata basis.
Guards working between 6pm and 6am receive a 21.7 per cent loading unless they are on permanent night shift in which case they receive a 30 per cent loading. The Saturday loading is 50 per cent and the Sunday loading is 100 per cent. Public holidays carry a loading of 150 per cent.
Ms Cresshyull told Fairfax the decision to limit the "low paid authorisation application" to guards protecting government facilities had been driven by the need for simplicity. The government contracts are held by a relatively small number of large companies. It would have been much more time consuming to put together an application that covered all workers.
Pay rates for security guards in the ACT, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory will be increased to bring them into line with NSW in July 2014.
Mr Delaney said ACT guards on the level five rate would receive a pay increase of about $12 a week when this occurred.
"The intention of the award modernisation system was to bring all workers (regardless of their state or territory) together under the one rate of pay," he said. "The ACT application appears to be contrary to that."