United Voice members successfully lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission for a Protected Action Ballot to enable Serco workers employed at immigration detention centres across Australia to take industrial action.
The application follows the rejection by members of Serco’s current pay offer for their latest Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.
At meetings held at Northam’s Yongah Hill Detention Centre, staff overwhelmingly supported the ballot.
Serco has currently offered an increase of 9 per cent over the next 3 years, while trading off conditions such as a travelling meal allowance.
For the past six months members have been pushing for a rise of 12 per cent over the next three years with no trade-offs.
Another major issue is the understaffing at detention centres and the safety issues faced by staff.
Members in Northam have signed a petition highlighting the problems with understaffing at Yongah Hill detention centre.
The petition addressed to Serco management reads:
“Understaffing is inflicting undue pressure and causing considerable safety concerns here at YHIDC.
Currently, there are detainees who are high and medium risk housed at Yongah Hill. My safety and that of my colleagues is continually at risk.
We do not have the numbers required to manage our posts. We are continually shifted around in order to cover vacancies in other areas. Often we are not adequately experienced or trained for those areas. It can be very stressful and at times frightening, particularly with the increased number of codes being called.
It is my belief that management do not care about my safety and wellbeing or that of the other staff. It is disappointing that our loyalty to Serco is being taken advantage of.
Staff morale is extremely low due to these staff shortages. If we are to perform to the best of our abilities, we require a commitment from Serco that they will invest in us and properly staff the Yongah Hill Detention Centre.”
Serco has since replied to the petition, with management’s initial response being that there are no staffing issues, which United Voice members reject.
Further meetings have been organised for next Thursday, with union delegates to meet with the detention centre’s management.
United Voice Secretary Carolyn Smith said that the situation out at Yongah Hill is not news to United Voice members.
“Inadequate staffing and a lack of training have been ongoing issues, so much that they form a key plank of negotiations with Serco in the current Enterprise Bargaining Agreement negotiations,” she said.
“These negotiations have hit an impasse. Serco continues to ignore concerns to such an extent that members have just voted by ballot to take protected industrial action.”
“They just don’t feel like they have any other option available to them.”
Ms Smith said when private companies run public services corners get cut in order to boost profits.
“Staffing levels go down. Adequate training and resources are not provided. They prefer casual workers, instead of a stable workforce that provides continuity to the service,” she said.
“Public services should not be run for private profit. Public services should be run at the highest level and run only to benefit the community.”
The state opposition have been calling for a public inquiry into Serco after a number of detention centre and prisoner transfer break outs.
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