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E tū: Waikato Hospital assault tip of iceberg

E tū says the serious assault on a security guard at Waikato Hospital this week is the tip of the iceberg and it’s time to end the use of security contractors who don’t provide adequate training, support and safe staffing.

Today, our injured member is out of the hospital’s High Dependency Unit but has severe injuries and faces a long recovery.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Sam Jones says assault is a daily risk for hospital security guards who are routinely understaffed and frequently poorly trained.

“Most guards are too afraid to speak publicly for fear of losing their jobs, but we know of at least six cases where security guards have suffered serious assaults in our hospitals,” says Sam.

“In one case a guard was knocked unconscious and wasn’t found for half an hour; another is still recovering months after an assault with a fire extinguisher and another was the target of a knife attack.”

He says the DHBs are placing their faith in budget security firms, which are failing to keep workers safe.

“They have an obligation to provide a safe working environment. They might be saving money by using contractors, but our injured worker has paid a very high price for that.”

The Convenor of E tū’s Runanga, Sharryn Barton is a former security guard, who once worked at the secure unit at Henry Bennett, Waikato Hospital’s mental health unit.

She says wages and conditions for security guards are very poor, while training is sometimes non-existent, despite the risks.

“Most contractors are desperate to get the work, so they’ll overlook certain things to get the contract, and that puts the workers at risk,” she says.

“Many are Tangatawhenua, Pacific Islanders and other migrants and women – the easiest people to exploit because they’re desperate for the job.

“I think we need an investigation into the security industry including the practices and ethics of these contractors as well as the people who contract them, to make sure workers aren’t bearing unacceptable risks just to keep their jobs.”

Sharryn says the whole issue of procurement standards for services such as hospital security also needs to be investigated.

Sam says the union will also be pushing WorkSafe to designate security as a high-risk occupation – a view shared by the better security firms and the New Zealand Security Association.


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