Security guard Pete Martin, with his 11-month son, Hendrix, and wife, Courtney. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

DHS Security Guards continue to face uncertainty over roster changes.

Security guards working at Department of Human Services (primarily based in Tuggeranong) have been in uproar at proposed major roster changes that will throw caring and family arrangements in to chaos. After talks with management and the union today, the guards have been granted a short reprieve from the changes. But the uncertainty remains.

Their employer Secom Australia moved to dramatically change their roster structure with minimal notice and next to no consultation on how the changes will cut incomes and affect work-life balance and caring responsibilities.

Guards at Secom are rostered to work a ‘four on, four off’ twelve-hour roster on a relatively fixed day or night basis. This arrangement allowed for stable rosters, work-life balance, and the ability to lock in caring arrangements.

On Monday 29 July 2019 Secom Australia announced it was immediately moving to a ‘rotating eight-hour roster’, with guards working a mix of days, afternoons, and nights. The changes mean all guards will work two extra shifts, but at the same time will have their total hours cut. They are still uncertain as to the financial losses they are facing. Day guards will be forced to work nights, while night guards will be forced to work days, regardless of established availability. Guards feel management has ignored all attempts to provide feedback or discuss compromises.

A petition calling for the new roster to be scrapped is running on the United Voice website.

Guards are concerned the new rotating rosters will have a dramatic effect on sleeping patterns and fatigue, while also cutting take home pay, reducing overall hours, and impacting caring responsibilities. Guards are also concerned the new rotating rosters may put Secom Australia in breach of the Security Award by failing to provide a break of at least 48 continuous hours between shifts.

Peter Martin, a full-time guard working the night roster, will be particularly impacted as the changes affect his access to cancer treatment. Peter says, “My wife and I both work for Secom, we’ve just had a baby, and I’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer. So I’m helping my wife care for the baby during the day, while also going through chemo. So nights are really the only time I’m available to work. Myself and my colleagues just can’t have issues like these ignored”.

Lyndal Ryan, ACT Branch Secretary, United Voice, the security union says, “Our members are in the incredibly stressful situation of having family arrangements and caring arrangements disregarded. Members are rightly concerned about the health and mental health implications of being forced to change to a rotating roster, working days and nights. Plus, their income will be impacted.

“Following talks today between with United Voice and Secom, the company has agreed to hold back the change slightly for two roster cycles, but the grave concerns of our members remain. We are concerned about this kind of treatment happening in Federal Government buildings. Negotiations will be continuing.”

United Voice wrote to Secom Australia last week expressing concerns about the lack of consultation as required by the Security Award. United Voice then filed a formal dispute with the Fair Work Commission on Friday. Secom Australia announced last weekend that it would hold back the immediate roster change and flew management from Sydney to hold talks with United Voice and security guards this week.

At the meeting, United Voice tabled a petition from members calling for an immediate cessation of proposed roster, paid town hall meetings, and genuine consultation. Secom agreed to postpone any roster change for two roster cycles (4-6 weeks), to hold town hall union meetings, and to consider impact on employees.