|Issue No 115||12 October 2001|
Nauru Guards Under-Paid, Untrained
By Andrew Casey
Australian security guards working, as detention officers in Nauru, guarding the Afghan and Iraqi refugees, are untrained, under-paid and facing diabolical working conditions.
"Australian workers who are having their passports confiscated as they arrive in Nauru, are forced to buy drinking water at inflated prices and are being refused assistance by the company when they fall ill," Jeff Lawrence, LHMU Security Union National Secretary said.
" These security guards are earning almost half what they would be earning if they were doing the same job in Australia.
" One of our members, working for Chubb Protective Services, has lodged a complaint of sexual harassment. The allegation is that she was asked for sexual favours in part in return for chocolate, sunglasses and mosquito coils.
" Our union is investigating this complaint further and taking all necessary steps to ensure that it is dealt with comprehensively and appropriately.
" Another member who was unhappy with the working conditions, and had fallen sick, was told that he would not be given his passport back and could not get off the island for three weeks. The member arranged his own ticket and escaped from Nauru within days."
The three security guards, who got back to Australia this week, had to break into a cupboard to 'steal' their own passports so they could get home.
The LHMU is angry that the Australian Government has contracted out the security services at the immigration detention facilities in Nauru to Chubb Protective Services without ensuring the job security and the job standards matched Australian conditions.
" Our information is that the terms and conditions of employment applying to these security workers in Nauru are significantly less than those that would apply to such work carried out in Australia," Jeff Lawrence said.
" We have demanded to be told by both Chubb and the Federal Government what steps are to be taken to ensure proper employment practices apply to Australian workers in Nauru.
" It seems to us that an extremely expensive, ill-thought out and slap-dash public policy initiative is being run only to help deliver John Howard an election result, as well as the continued occupation of an exclusive harbourside PM's residence in Kirribilli, Sydney.
Detention Facilities in Australia
" At the same time as detention facilities have been established in Nauru - and now elsewhere in PNG - we understand from our sources in the security industry that similar privately-run immigration detention facilities are going ahead, being quietly established in Australia.
" If our information is correct, by the end of this year, or early next year, the Government will decide that the Nauru and PNG exercise is too expensive and draining on our economy - and once more boat people will be housed in Australian-based detention centres.
" This seems to be a cynical exercise to the detriment of the Australian voter, Australian security workers employed in Nauru and elsewhere - and possibly the boatpeople being smuggled across the waters."
Jeff Lawrence said the Queensland branch of the LHMU has now met with the State Manager of Chubb Protective Services to raise the very serious complaints made by three employees who had been engaged at Nauru for a brief period.
" We told Chubb management that upon arrival at the island, the employees passports were confiscated. After experiencing severe illness, the employees had to leave the island at their own initiative when assistance was refused by the company.
"Due to the LHMU's intervention, the Queensland manager has now agreed to cover the employee's medical expenses, after initially refusing such a request.
" The LHMU members had a number of other matters which were raised with the company. These included: the lack of drinking water which had to be purchased by employees at a cost of $5.00 per bottle; and inadequate preparation and protection of employees in the conditions of work at a detention facility, including instances of violence towards employees.
" These workers had no experience with detention facilities before they went to Nauru, which our union's involvement with such facilities in Australia clearly shows requires specialised security staff who are well trained," Jeff Lawrence said.
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Review: Rings of Confidence
In his study on the 2000 Olympics, Tony Webb argues that the government and unions reached a new level of cooperation.
Satire: Greens 'Quietly Unconfident' of Forming Government
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