Millions spent on private security guards at MIQ hotels

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The government spent $ 37.6 million on private security guards for MIQ hotels in eight months after announcing it would use its own agents instead.

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Despite the end of its contracts with 15 security companies, the number of private security guards working in hotels every day has now increased by around 20%.

It comes amid a struggle for the government to recruit its own guards with just 48 working so far.

Figures obtained by RNZ show that in January, around 244 private security guards were working in MIQ hotels every 24 hours, at a cost of $ 198,000.

In May, that number rose to 291 guards, costing about $ 153,000 per day. The drop in pay could be due to fewer hours or less full QMIs.

New Zealand Security Association chief executive Gary Morrison initially praised the remoteness of private companies, but was disappointed.

“There was talk of offering better wages and focusing on better training. We are very disappointed that this is not the case. In fact, the training is no different from what private security personnel were given before. change must be challenged, ”he said.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) wanted to fill 156 security positions by July, but only 48 people were employed, despite 634 applications.

These people work alongside the defense forces, AVSEC and private security officers from First Security, and the ministry said they were offered training in situational security and tactical communications, mental health and certification. approval.

Morrison said most private security guards work around 55 hours a week and earn a living wage, but the department’s job offer was less attractive.

“The reason MBIE came is that they offer one-year fixed-term contracts, so there is no certainty of continuity at the end of this term. They offer slightly higher salaries. but with capped hours, so many staff are considering a pay cut if they go to work for MBIE, ”he explained.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said there were other reasons for the shortfall.

“There are a variety of things that they balance out there. One is just to make sure we have the right person, the right type of workforce there. still only a limited number of people available to do this work. But we will bring more of these roles in-house, ”he said.

He didn’t know exactly when this would happen.

The government first announced it would hire its own security force after a mistake when a guard used Snapchat to display the names, room numbers and arrival and departure dates of 27 returnees.

In April, one guard was fired for making unwanted contact with a returnee, another was caught lying about being tested for Covid-19 – after testing positive and transmitting the virus to a colleague.

Morrison said it was risky to have people working under different pay rules and expectations.

In a statement, MIQ chief Brigadier Rose King confirmed that the ministry had reduced the number of different private employers from 16 to one to “streamline” and strengthen its security forces.

He did not intend to completely stop using private security guards.

“We need to keep a private security company in order to have surge capacity and emergency support at our 31 facilities,” she said.

She said that once the hiring process is complete, First Security will still provide around 15% of the workforce – around 130 security officers – while government agencies will make up the remaining 85%.

E Tū union organizer Mat Danaher said it might be a good thing to have multiple security providers available.

“It probably makes sense to have people from different agencies and different providers who can be brought in at different times and fill different roles, and where the levels can be increased as needed and then reduced,” he said.

“Because it’s really intense working in MIQ and it impacts family life in a way that other jobs might not. So being able to scroll through people and go back to them at some point is probably also a really good thing. “

RNZ also asked for the number of security guards working last year, when the facilities were under the control of the Ministry of Health.

He declined the request because only the “security companies themselves” would know how many were working.


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