Govt to protect security guards

The Government is delivering on a key commitment to better protect security guards’ pay and conditions by adding them to Schedule 1A of the Employment Relations Act, Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood announced today.

“Security guards protect us and our property - it’s time we protect their hard-won employment conditions. Our Government recognises we need to support them given they are on the front lines keeping our managed isolation facilities secure.

“The industry is highly competitive and prone to restructuring, which means security guards can find themselves being made redundant without compensation, or being taken up by a new contractor where they lose their entitlements and offered worse pay and conditions.

“With these new protections, the 7,800 security guards nationwide will be able to keep their jobs and retain their pay rates and conditions when a business is sold or restructured. This will help stop the race to the bottom where companies are undercutting each other and lead to an industry that competes on service quality, which helps the companies already offering good conditions.

“I want to acknowledge E tū for their advocacy on this issue and they have helped secure a win for the people who watch out for all of us.

“The required Order in Council to make this change will now be drafted and the change is expected to be in force by mid-2021, which gives the industry time to adjust,” Michael Wood said.

The Employment Relations Act gives certain specified categories of workers, such as cleaners and caterers, additional employment protections when a business is sold or restructured. These workers are provided extra protections because they lack bargaining power and work in sectors with frequent restructuring, which can undermine their working conditions and put their job at risk.

Schedule 1A currently provides additional protections for employees who work in the following areas:

  • cleaning services and food catering services in any place of work
  • laundry services for the education, health or age-related residential care sector
  • orderly services for the health or age-related residential care sector
  • caretaking services for the education sector.

Part 6A (subpart 1) of the Employment Relations Act provides additional protections for categories of employees who are listed in Schedule 1A of the Act. These protections include:

  • The right for employees to transfer to a new employer where, because of proposed restructuring (including contracting in, contracting out, or subsequent contracting), their work is to be performed by the new employer.
  • If employees elect to transfer to the new employer, their terms and conditions of employment are transferred, and the new employer must recognise their entitlements to sick leave, annual holidays and their continuous service as unbroken.
  • If employees elect to transfer to the new employer, and that new employer makes them redundant because of the transfer situation, they may become eligible for redundancy entitlements.

Part 6A also includes a system for ensuring prospective employers can request information relating to the transfer of employees from the current employer, including the number of employees eligible to transfer, wages, work hours, etc.

The ability to add new categories of employees to Schedule 1A was reintroduced in the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018. E tū applied for security guards to be added in 2019. MBIE did analysis and their conclusion, based on the evidence available, security guards did meet the criteria in the Employment Relations Act. The Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety approved and took the recommendation to Cabinet who agreed for security guards to be added.