Gallery Heist: NGV guards rally, demanding $3mil in stolen wages

Dozens of United Voice security union members will rally today outside the National Gallery of Victoria - International to demand that its disgraced contractor Business Risks International (BRI) repay as much as $3mil in stolen wages.

Earlier this month BRI Security was exposed in the media for underpaying gallery guards by almost $20 an hour in some cases.

Guards report being hired by BRI and then transferred to fly-by-night subcontractors NSG and Java who underpay guards, and in some cases paid guards cash-in-hand. Some guards caught up in this racket are recent refugees.

An analysis by United Voice lawyers of a roster at a BRI subcontractor revealed an average underpayment of $14,272.96 per year. United Voice believes that 100 of NGV’s 150 guards were engaged via subcontractors and the collective underpayment could total as much as $3mil since BRI took over in April 2015.

The Victorian Government reacted to the scandal by appointing auditing firm KPMG to investigate, and has said it may refer BRI allegations to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Belinda Panalou, a NGV guard who underpaid then sacked after speaking out, told the ABC that working at Victoria’s world-renowned gallery was like “an illegal sweatshop.”

"I can't even walk into the NGV anymore … it's lost its reputation for me and I consider it now to be like an illegal sweatshop," said Ms Panalou.

Jess Walsh, Victorian Secretary of United Voice, the Security Union, said the wage theft scandal shamed our state.

“Victorians should be appalled by these revelations. They bring shame on this state and our most prestigious cultural institution.”

“BRI and their dodgy subcontractors have stolen millions of dollars in unpaid wages from our members and their families. Today, we are saying we want it back. Now.”

“The State Government needs to step in now and fix this. They need to terminate BRI’s contract and send a strong message they won’t tolerate wage theft. Not here. Not anywhere.”

Subcontracting in the security industry is out of control. A union survey conducted recently revealed 56% of respondents stated that subcontracting was happening at their workplace.

"We see subcontracting happening almost everywhere in the security industry at the moment; and subcontracting usually is part of a deliberate strategy to sidestep basic Award standards like minimum rates of pay and other entitlements," Ms Walsh said.

"Clearly there needs to be much stronger standards in the way the State Government awards its contracts, so this systemic wage theft can never happen again. It needs to have see a zero tolerance policy when it comes to wage theft.”

BRI is contracted to guard other well-known public institutions, including the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Australia Council, Public Record Office of Victoria and La Trobe University.

Media contact: Tim Petterson, United Voice Victoria Communications Director 0438 399 973 

Our resolution to #FIGHTinequality

At the United Voice Victorian Leaders Convention last week, delegates and leaders from across our union put forward a resolution to #FIGHTinequality.

The theme of the day was Together we are Powerful - and that's how we're going to tackle inequality and stand up for good, secure jobs.

The Convention notes that:

  1. Insecure and low-paid jobs are growing
  2. These jobs are bad for people and the economy

The Convention calls for:

  1. An economy that has more secure, sustainable fulltime employment with good working conditions and greater equality for all.
  2. A focus on Australian jobs & Australian owned & made products
  3. Where we all earn a living wage for what we do and have certainty in the hours we work & in our future.

The Convention resolves to:

  1. Join together to to bring everyone into the union movement and help them be more active through education
  2. We will educate the community about who we are & what we stand for
  3. We will use the power of the Union for political influence to deliver the economy we need
  4. We are going to unite all industries & all unions to fight to drive this change

Australians hit the panic button over rising inequality

Hundreds of United Voice members, including low-paid cleaners, early childhood educators, hospitality workers and guards are hitting the panic button over rising inequality.

Today hundreds of low-paid cleaners, childcare educators, hospitality workers and security guards will hold a noisy demonstration outside Flinders Street Station demanding the Federal Government take urgent action to address growing inequality in Australia.

A national poll of voters has revealed almost 70 percent of Australians believe the gap between rich and poor is getting bigger and a similar number believe the Turnbull government is not doing enough to close this widening gap.

The poll of 3,896 voters across Australia found that 68.8% say the gap between rich and poor is getting bigger, including 50.3 % of LNP voters.

The poll also revealed extreme levels of concern about flat-lining wages and reduced job security. It found:

•       60% said the current minimum wage is too low, including 41.8% of LNP voters.

•       78.5% of voters believe jobs are becoming less secure, including 68.9 % of LNP voters, while just 5.8% of those polled said the minimum wage is too high.

•       67.8 percent said the Federal Government was not doing enough to address the gap between rich and poor, including 41.7% of LNP voters.

A United Voice analysis found that Australia’s current minimum wage of $17.70 per hour has fallen from 65 per cent of median earnings in 1985 to 53 per cent in 2015.

Earlier this week United Voice called on the Fair Work Commission to set four-year targets for minimum wage increases to arrest growing inequality, with a "floor" proposed as 60 percent of the median earnings by 2020.

United Voice's submission, filed on Monday and backed by the ACTU, estimates this would see the minimum weekly wage of $672.70 reach $866.68 in four years – an increase of 29 per cent that would boost the hourly rate from $17.70 an hour to $22.81.

The ReachTEL poll was conducted on the evening of Wednesday 12 October with 3,896 voters across Australia and has a 2.1 percent margin of error.

Make it count: election scorecard

We asked United Voice members and supporters what mattered to you.

And now we’ve crunched the policies of the major parties. Use this scorecard to see how they stack up on the issues that matter most. 

Your vote is so powerful - so use it wisely!


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Poll of health workers shows Frankston Hospital in crisis if penalty rates cut

Nurses and paramedics will protest in the knife-edge seat of Dunkley today at Frankston Hospital to warn voters that critical health services will struggle to stay open on weekends if penalty rates are cut by a re-elected Turnbull government.

On Wednesday a ReachTEL poll of 1188 Victorian paramedics found that 92 percent would no longer do shift-work if penalty rates are cut.


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These results follow an earlier national poll by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation of 13,101 nurses and midwives in 2015, in which 87 percent said they would no longer do shift work without penalty rates.

Mr Turnbull and 60 other Liberal MPs have publicly supported cutting penalty rates. The Abbott-Turnbull government tried multiple times to pass the Fair Work Amendment Bill through Parliament, which reintroduces WorkChoices-style individual contracts and allows weekend rates to be cut across the workforce.

Staff shortages likely to arise from cuts to weekend rates would be another nail in the coffin of Australia’s beleaguered public health system.

Mr Turnbull has maintained most of Tony Abbott’s $57 billion cuts to public hospitals and extended Mr Abbott’s freeze on Medicare rebates to 2020, along with plans to privatise Medicare. 

An analysis by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, obtained by ANMF, revealed that Peninsula Health, the organisation responsible for managing Frankston Hospital is facing cuts of $672 million over ten years.

A ReachTEL poll conducted in May in Dunkley found that 83 percent of undecided voters were less likely to vote for candidates who support cuts to weekend rates.

Quotes attributable to Dave Oliver, ACTU Secretary:

 “We know that any reduction in penalty rates is a real cut in wages and will therefore have a huge impact on the ability of people who work unsociable hours to provide for their families.”

“The Coalition sees penalty rates as a luxury and an inconvenience to their friends in business. The union movement knows that not only do they represent the hard earned pay of ordinary workers, but they are a vital to ensuring that services remain available through the weekends.”

“If penalty rates are cut for healthcare workers under the next government it would have a disastrous impact on the level of care that our healthcare system is able to provide.”

“The Turnbull Government needs to stand with working people and protect their pay and conditions.”

Quotes attributable to Steve McGhie, General Secretary of Ambulance Employees Australia, Victoria:

Paramedics don’t do this job for the money. It’s about serving the community. But they make great sacrifices and shift work has a huge impact on their lives.”

“This poll shows there is no way most paramedics would keep working nights, weekends and public holidays without penalty rates.”

“Shift penalties make up an average of 27 percent of a paramedic’s weekly income. If they were cut branches in Dunkley and all over Victoria would struggle to remain open outside of business hours. Forget about a calling an ambulance, you may as well send for a hearse.”

“Paramedics know that cutting weekend penalty rates for all workers are in Liberal Party’s DNA. The Liberal candidate in Dunkley has written extensively about cutting weekend rates and still stands by his comments.”

Quotes attributable to Annie Butler, Assistant Federal Secretary ANMF:

“Over thirteen thousand nurses and midwives have contacted the ANMF to let us know they were deeply worried about the Coalition Government’s continued progress to cut or remove penalty rates from Australian working rights.”

“The majority of nurses and midwives do not take these shifts because they want to – quality care is required 24/7. Our members go on duty when their hospital needs them. They lose time with their family, miss out on special occasions and can sometimes suffer sleep disruptions due to the nature of shift work. Penalty rates are a small but important compensation for that sacrifice.”

“Most Victorian nurses', midwives' penalty rates will be protected in their enterprise agreements. However there are still ongoing concerns around whether nurses and carers working outside acute services will have their penalty rates protected. These nurses and carers are just as important - they deserve their penalty rates.”

“Mr Turnbull says anyone who accuses him of attacking Australia’s universal healthcare system is a liar. Let’s look at his government’s record instead – $57 billion ripped from Australian hospitals over ten years and $1.8 billion taken from Australian aged care.”

“Mr Turnbull’s government has cut $672 million over ten years from Peninsula Health, the organisation responsible for managing Frankston Hospital. That’s the equivalent of 1.6 million Emergency Department presentations."

“Nurses and midwives have overwhelmingly told us that they do not intend to work shifts without penalty rates. We cannot stand by and let Mr Turnbull create a two-tier employment scheme where some Australian workers are compensated for shift work while others are not.”

“Penalty rates keep Australia’s health services running.”

POLL: Massive support across Victoria for portable long service leave scheme

Cleaners and guards have welcomed a Victorian Government inquiry report tabled in parliament today supporting the establishment of a portable long-service scheme, following the lead of NSW, Queensland and the ACT.

It comes as United Voice released a ReachTEL poll today of 1,029 residents across Victoria which reveals 68.8% support for a portable long-service scheme.

The poll also shows that Victorians continue to overwhelmingly support long-service leave as a workplace right. 84.7 percent agreed that long-service leave continues to be an important workplace right, including 67.9 percent who strongly agreed.    

Victoria’s Inquiry into Portability of Long Service Leave Entitlements tabled its final report in State Parliament today said the current rules are “inequitable” for cleaners and guards, and supports Victoria establishing a scheme for workers in cleaning, security and community services, similar to a scheme in the ACT which has been in place since 2000.

Cleaners and security officers, who are often employed at the one site for many years, face a revolving door of employers. When a contract change occurs, which can occur every few years, leave entitlements are often erased.

“Cleaners and guards can work in the same buildings for decades serving the same people year in and year out. But every few years they get a new company paying their wages, a new uniform, and all their long-service leave entitlements are wiped away,” said Jess Walsh, Victorian Secretary of United Voice.

“This reform will change their lives. It recognises and respects their ongoing service and gives them security for the future.”

“We congratulate the Premier for initiating this process and taking it this far. We now urge the Government to heed the Inquiry’s findings and quickly implement a new portable long-service leave scheme.”

“At least 13 million people live in part of Australia where a portable long service leave scheme operates. It’s time Victoria caught up with the rest of the country.”

Sam Ismaili, a cleaner 1 Treasury Place, said: “In my 37 years cleaning the Premier’s Office I haven’t been able to take long-service leave once. Cleaners and guards have fought for portable long service leave for a long time because it will make big difference. All the cleaners at my site are waiting to hear from me about what happened today, they will be so excited. Now we hope Premier Andrews puts in place a fair new system for our long service leave.”

The ReachTEL poll was commissioned by United Voice and was conducted on Thursday 2 June and includes +/- 3% margin of error.

Lobbying blitz as workers escalate push for 21st century long-service leave scheme

With the jobs debate dominating the Federal Election, workers today will step up their push for Victoria to catch up with other states and introduce a portable long-service leave scheme.

Sixty one workers will hit State Parliament today to tell 55 MPs from across party lines that a portable long service scheme is critical to ensuring our growing services sector offers good, secure jobs to Victorian workers and their families.

The lobbying effort comes as cleaning and security union United Voice today releases a survey of 313 cleaners and security officers who have worked 7+ years in their industry, showing 85 percent have never taken long-service leave.

Victoria’s Inquiry into Portability of Long Service Leave Entitlements is set to hand down its final report within a month and at least a dozen unions and peak union bodies, along with VCOSS and other community groups, are backing the push for a portable long service leave scheme.

Cleaners and security officers, who are often employed at the one site for many years, face a revolving door of employers. When a contract change occurs, which can occur every few years, workers’ leave entitlements are erased.


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“Jobs is a key issue this election, as it should be. Unemployment is too high and Victoria is bleeding good, secure jobs in manufacturing that were once the backbone of our economy.  They’re being replaced with low-paid, insecure jobs in industries like cleaning and security,” said Jess Walsh, Victorian Secretary of United Voice.

“If service industry jobs are the future for our state then we need to make sure they are good ones, for the sake of the current workforce and all our children. The fact is the current long service model is failing these workers – almost no cleaner of security officer ever gets to take it.”

“When a new company wins a cleaning or security contract, workers at these sites often lose all their long-service leave. They miss out a critical on an entitlement, recognising loyal service.”

“Most of these workers get just the award minimum. So, if they lose their jobs, which often happens when contracts change, there is nothing to fall back on even after decades of service.”

“Cleaners and security officers are essential; they keep important buildings and spaces hygienic and safe. They deserve good, secure jobs and their loyal service should be recognised.”

 “At least 13 million people live in part of Australia where a portable long service leave scheme operates; Victoria needs to catch up and introduce a flexible 21st century long-service scheme.”

“A portable long service leave scheme will make life less precarious for these critical workers and help them stay in these vital industries and plan for their future.”

“We congratulate the Premier for initiating this process and taking it this far. We urge his government to now follow through and fix it once and for all.”

Sam Ismaili, a cleaner at 1 Treasury Place, said: “I’ve worked 37 years at Treasury Place and cleaned the offices of Rupert Hamer, Lindsay Thompson, John Cain, Joan Kirner, Jeff Kennett, Steve Bracks, John Brumby, Ted Baillieu, Denis Napthine and now Mr Andrews. I should have been able to take it four times but I haven’t taken it once because we keep losing it. It’s not fair.”

Workers will meet with MPs from Labor, Liberals, Nationals, Greens and independents, and raise a range of issues including the need for a portable long-service leave scheme, labour hire licensing and stronger procurement standards. 

Childcare educators launch election campaign with march through Melb for equal pay

Today hundreds childcare educators will launch their Federal Election campaign for equal pay with a noisy, colourful march through Melbourne.

Today United Voice has released Reachtel polling of 2053 voters across Bonner (Qld), Macarthur (NSW) and Dunkley (Vic) that shows childcare is a vote-changing issue this election.

poll_childcare.jpgUp to 44 percent of undecided voters say they are less likely to vote Coalition because promised fee relief in its signature Families Package will now not commence until 2018.

A majority of voters in all three seats agreed that childcare educators deserve to be paid a similar wage to workers in the primary and secondary education. About 15,000 Australians have signed a petition supporting equal pay for educators.

At the rally, and throughout the election, educators will call on Malcolm Turnbull and the leaders of other major parties to support their Big Steps campaign for equal pay.

Across Australia there are about 80,000 educators working in long day care centres, educating close to a million children but they earn as little as $20 an hour.

Educators say their work is chronically undervalued because the sector is 95 per cent female.

Last week Bill Shorten said in his Budget in Reply speech a Labor government will “champion the march of women to equality [by] closing the gender pay gap.”

Speaking at today’s rally is Brendan O’Connor, Labor Spokesman for Workplace Relations, Jo-Anne Schofield, Nat. Sec of early childhood union United Voice and several educators.

“Educators have an enormous responsibility; they are literally shaping the future, one child at a time,” says Jo-anne Schofield, United Voice National Secretary.

“Yet those teaching and caring for our youngest children, childcare educators, are paid significantly less than educators in the primary and secondary sector.”

“Childcare educators are among the lowest paid professionals in Australia for one simple reason: This workforce is 95 per cent female and it’s still seen by some as just ‘women’s work’.”

“It’s a national disgrace that after 50 years since the principle of equal pay for equal work was first enshrined by our industrial court 80,000 educators are still being paid like it’s 1969.”

“A responsible government that values the future of our children would already have fixed this injustice. It is time to value our future. It is time to value every child and every educator.”

“Voters see childcare as a fundamental issue and are ready to punish the PM for his betrayal of families in the Federal Budget. A majority of voters also support equal pay for educators.”

“Today educators are launching our election campaign with a clear message for the Prime Minister: we want to know what you stand for? Do you stand for equal pay?”

“Over this election voters are going to see educators everywhere – we’re going to be in your communities, holding street stalls, asking for your support.”

“We’re working like teachers – but being paid like babysitters,” says Kerrie Devir, a 49 year-old Melbourne educator.

“There are more than 70,000 women working as childcare educators, for as little as $20 an hour. Can you imagine 70,000 men putting up with that – for even five minutes?”

Guards Fight Dodgy Work Choices Contract

A La Trobe Uni guard in Bendigo facing the sack will go to court to save his job and push ahead with a campaign to terminate a dodgy Work Choices-era contract paying $9 p/hr below the Award.

David Hollingworth, who works for security contractor BRI Security at La Trobe University Bendigo’s Rural Health School, says he has been falsely accused of misconduct and threatened with the sack after he applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate a dodgy Work Choices-era agreement.

The agreement, nearly ten years old, cuts weekend penalty rates and allowances so that guards can be paid $9 per hour below the Award and is a chilling reminder of Malcolm Turnbull’s post-election IR agenda.


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The threats made against Mr Hollingworth by BRI Security began the day after he made his application to the Fair Work Commission.

Yesterday, Mr Hollingworth, with support from his union, United Voice, requested BRI Security immediately withdraw allegations and threats to his employment. However BRI has refused.

Union lawyers believe threats against Mr Hollingworth are a clear attempt to harass and intimidate him and fellow guards from seeking to be the paid the Award wages.

Mr Hollingworth’s application was on behalf of over a dozen BRI security officers but if successful would affect all of its 200+ security officers in Victoria.

“David Hollingworth has blown the whistle on a dodgy agreement that has many thousands of dollars ripped out of the pockets of Bendigo families,” said Jess Walsh, Victorian Secretary of United Voice, the security union.

“BRI cannot be allowed to get away with this attempt to silence guards. We will stand with David in court and help him defend the right these hard-working guards to be paid Award wages.”

“Bendigo voters should remember that these Work Choices-era laws that allowed BRI guards to be ripped off are precisely the same as Malcolm Turnbull will reintroduce if he is returned to government on Saturday 2 July.”

Union lawyers are poised to make a legal application in the Fair Work Commission to seek to protect Mr Hollingworth’s employment under the “General Protections” provisions of the Fair Work Act.

BRI has contracts with various higher education institutions, the National Gallery in Melbourne and even the Melbourne office of Fair Work Australia itself.

United Voice has called for La Trobe University management to intervene immediately and pull its security contractor into line.

(Photo: Adam Holmes)

Union Cleaners Are Winning

Members of the cleaners union have had some HUGE wins in our fight for good secure jobs in the industry!

We kicked out dodgy subcontractors, won direct employment, and won back money owed to us by dodgy bosses.

Over the last few months, cleaners have stood together in our union and:

WON award pay and more job security for cleaners who were being underpaid at Myer department stores. Member Rafael Colobon won reinstatement after he was sacked for speaking out about dodgy subcontractors at Myer. Share this win! 

WON award pay and more job security at Crown, after members kicked a subcontractor out of the casino for underpaying cleaners and forcing them onto ABNs.

WON award pay and more job security at Melbourne University, after members kicked a subcontractor out for underpaying cleaners and forcing them on to ABNs. Share this win!

WON an agreement so all cleaners that have worked at 485 La Trobe Street for more than a year keep their jobs when contracts change.

WON respect at RMIT when GJK responded to a meeting demand from 35 cleaners who spoke out about their workloads being too high. GJK say they will fix these problems, and delegates will meet with GJK again soon to make sure they do.

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