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Zero pay increase and zero hours for Armourguard workers - union

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The union representing security guards is shocked that one of New Zealand’s largest security firms is refusing to give their workers a pay increase this year.

Armourguard has offered Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) members a zero percent pay offer in collective agreement negotiations today, saying that public sector clients such as government departments, public hospitals and local Councils want cuts in contract prices and do not care that this means security guards will stay on the minimum wage.

Among Armourguard’s public sector clients is the Ministry of Social Development, which increased its security requirements after Work and Income staff members were attacked and killed in Ashburton last year.

Armourguard staff also provide protection for patients and staff in some public hospitals, as well as performing noise control for several local Councils, and crowd control duties, including on the Auckland public transport system.

SFWU Industry Leader Jill Ovens says these are not low value, low risk jobs. "Security guards put themselves on the line every day to protect our community and property, and they deserve to be paid a decent wage," Ms Ovens said.

"The zero percent wage offer not only shows how much this company undervalues its workers, but also highlights under-the-radar austerity measures in the public sector," she said.

Ms Ovens said the pay rates for many security guards was so low that the 50 cents an hour increase in April in the minimum wage wiped out Armourguard’s bottom two steps in the pay scale.

"This is not uncommon in the security industry, where companies are undercutting each other to secure public sector contracts in a vicious race to the bottom," she said.

"This is aided and abetted by government procurement policies that are based on the lowest bid, rather than training, health and safety, and recognition of security guards."

Ms Ovens said Armourguard is also refusing to do anything about its zero-hours contracts. Armourguard has for several years been employing all its guards either as casuals or on what it calls ‘part-time variable contracts’.

"You can be regularly rostered 45 hours a week at a Work and Income office or a hospital, but if the client decides you are not wanted, justified or not, Armourguard will remove you with no guarantee of hours beyond a 3-hour minimum shift - if you are lucky enough to get a shift. You will be literally waiting by the phone for enough work to get by," she said.

"Workers need secure hours to be able to keep up with bills and look after their families."

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