Why Security Sub-Contracting Must Be Stopped: Australian Lives Matter!

Yesterday, I had the chance to speak (on the phone) with a Security Officer stationed at one of the ‘Quarantine Hotels in Melbourne.’ Sadly he tested positive for Covid-19 while working at the CBD Hotel!

It is sad to see some large Australian security companies sub-contract their security guard contracts to dodgy ‘security contractors!’ And sometimes the security officers employed by these ‘cowboy sub-contractors’ have no idea who they are actually working for. These phoneys don’t provide Company Names, a Business License Number, or websites to the engaged security officers. Each time they know they are not meeting their employer obligations (such as National Employment Standards, ATO-Rules, or Fair Work Acts) even when they have a legitimate company. Why so? It helps them to operate ‘off-the-books’ so their wage-theft/cash-in-hand employment is untraceable!

Also, see the following:

The trick is the ‘sham security sub-contractor’ usually provides only their first-name (likely pseudo names). For example, in some of the Quarantine Hotels in Melbourne, a particular security sub-contractor supplied hundreds of guards to these hotels by providing only his pseudo name to his guards.

I made a concerted effort to get a few more hotel quarantine security guards to speak with about this sad development through one of my contacts, but the guards wouldn’t directly speak to me. The reason why? They did not have the right Australian Work Visa, so they are scared to testify as it may affect their Visa!

Professional Small-Medium Size Security Companies

There are very good, reliable, and professional small-medium size security companies that can provide ethical and high-quality sub-contracting services and possibly execute the contract directly. However, it seems some big security companies would prefer to work with a ‘one-man cowboy show’ that sometimes don’t even have a Security Business/Master License, Insurance, and proper Staff Training and Induction Procedures. Most times, they pay their guards cash-in-hand (whether they have a security license or not).

Example: I once worked at a shopping centre here in Melbourne and the main security provider (names withheld) used a sub-contractor who provided shopping centre security guards for this site. The security officer who worked for this particular sub-contractor had no idea what company they were working for. I asked one of the guards why and he told me, “Because the company keeps changing names every few months and they don’t even have a website. These security officers also went through wage theft but I will save that for another article.

Recommendations and Solutions

Below are four recommendations and solutions that I hope the Australian Government, Victorian State Government, and the Victorian Police (LRD) could use to help make Australian security companies provide ethical and professional security services to all Australians and make our communities safe again!

Solution 1 – Abolish Security Sub-Contracting
I think it will be best if the Australian, Victorian, and various States and Territory Governments ‘abolish security sub-contracting’ within the Australian security industry. These practices do not only encourage sharp and dangerous occurrences, but they also place the general community in risky situations like the ‘Melbourne Hotel Quarantine Debarcle.’

Also, see the following:
Danger to Australian National Security Due to Underpayment of Guards
How to recover your stolen wages from your security employer

Solution 2 – Direct Contracting
I will also suggest that the Federal, State, and Territory Governments encourage more direct security contracting or consortium contracting. Victorian and Australian lives matter and are in danger today, due to an outdated and dangerous practice of ‘Security Sub-Contracting.’ The majority of ‘Big Security Companies in Australia‘ are very good with their processes and practices in their handling of security contracts directly. But, sadly some, tend to subcontract to the lowest bidding sub-contractor who in most cases is ‘dodgy and unlicensed and hires untrained or unlicensed guards’ whom they mostly pay in cash.

Solution 3 – International Students
I will advise the Victorian State Government and other States and Territories to prohibit International students from being granted security licenses and working in the Security Industry. International students working as security officers pose a greater risk to our communities, businesses, and Australian Security Industry.

International students are only permitted to work 20 hours a week in most situations/periods. Often you will find international students working above their permitted working hours for cash-in-hand or while unlicensed to avoid the ATO and Immigration Department tracking their illegal work hours.
International student security officers fulfil many of the roles offered by ‘unethical and phoney security sub-contractors.’ They are a match made in ‘fraud land.’ The students are happy to be underpaid for as low as $15-$20 per hour, working above their permitted 20 hours per week. The ‘phoney sub-contractor’ also avoids paying GST, Income Tax, and Superannuation and in many situations is operating without a Master/Business Security License.

Solution 4 – Monitored Sub-Contracting

I am really reluctant to provide this particular solution but, since some security professionals in the industry believe that ‘ethical sub-contracting’ still has a role in the security industry, I will proffer these solutions:

  • LRD (Licensing and Regulation Departments or your state equivalent) should create an ‘Approved List’ database of 50 to 120 security companies that can operate as sub-contractors (and the list is updated and reviewed every 6-12 months)
  • These approved sub-contractors by LRD must have held a Security Services License for a period of 2 years, with evidence of compliance with TAX, Labour Hire Authority, Superannuation Payments, Work Cover, etc. before they can be approved as sub-contractors
  • The main Security Contractor must secure written approval from the Client and LRD before they can engage any LRD Approved Sub-Contractor at any given site or in any given contract
  • The Sub-Contractor Security Company can not provide more than 15-25 security officers to the main Security Contractor in a particular contract and no more than a total of 50 security officers to the main contractor at any time
  • The main Security Contractor must take all/full responsibilities, risks, liabilities of the sub-contractor (i.e. if guards are not paid, or under-paid, litigations, the client is not provided with agreed services, training and PPE, unlicensed guards etc.)

I can provide a further explanation or breakdown of all solutions offered.

Conclusion: The Federal, State, and Territories Governments will benefit a great deal if security sub-contracting is abolished, and below are more reasons why:

– It will help avoid exposing our communities to greater harm like the ‘Melbourne Hotel Quarantine Fiasco’
– There will be an increase in GST, Income Tax and Superannuation payments to the Government and Super Funds because the number of legitimate and on the books guards will increase 10 fold
– The quality of security guards will greatly improve in Australia because most companies will be forced to recruit directly, and often direct-owner contract security officers are of higher quality
– Government and Private Business Site will be better protected because of increase quality of security personnel deployed
– Australian communities will be much safer because top-quality security officers deployed
– It will attract many women to choose security as an occupation. Currently, women account for less than 10% of the total number of security officers in the Australian security industry
– It will also help attract people who are on welfare to take up Security Guarding as a job, helping the Government save more money on reducing the number of welfare recipients

Written By: Job Moses [Security Guarding Services Expert and Consultant based in Melbourne, Australia]

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