Security guards contracted to Tasmania's Justice and Health departments are working in dangerous and unpredictable workplaces with inadequate training and pay, a union has claimed.
The United Workers Union held a protest in front of the Launceston General Hospital on Wednesday morning to highlight its concerns for workplace conditions of the more than 90 guards contracted to Tasmania's public service through Wilson Security.
The government contracts the guards to work in hospitals and criminal courts. In the courts, they are required to guard prisoners and scan attendees, but the equipment has repeatedly been deemed inadequate by the Police Association of Tasmania.
UWU property services spokesperson Sarah Ellis said the guards were required to carry out work comparable with police and corrections staff, but with little training and far less pay.
"They do jobs that are beyond the norm of a normal security guard, and they are not paid fairly, they're in danger every day, and they're gagged by their employer from talking about the things that they face every day," she said.
"They're working with very dangerous people often, there's attacks, they're understaffed, they're not given the training that they need.
"Ultimately, these are public jobs and they should be part of the public service. That's why we want the state government to bring these guards in-house. They can ensure then that there is correct training, that these people are paid properly for the roles that they do, and there is accountability."
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Wilson Security disputed the claims, stating it provided "specialised training to meet hospital standards".
"We also have several tools in place to ensure our workers feel comfortable alerting us to issues of health and safety in their workplace, including a Whistleblowing program and Employee Assist Program, which can be used to escalate issues," a statement from the company read.
"We are diligent in our investigations of these issues, as employee health, safety and wellbeing is paramount to Wilson Security."
The Police Association has repeatedly highlighted unsafe working conditions in criminal courts, resulting in a safety improvement notice being issued by WorkSafe Tasmania in February, which was later withdrawn. A Right to Information request did not result in any documentation for the reasons for the withdrawal.
Safety issues included security guards watching inmates for long periods without handcuffs and a lack of bag screening technology.
The Justice Department is understood to be in discussions with police and UWU in relation to prisoner transport and court security. WorkSafe is continuing investigations and inspections at magistrates courts across the state.
The state government did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.