Security guards working at the Pontville detention centre [in Tasmania] say they have been sacked in a shock move by operator Serco.
Devastated security staff contacted the Mercury yesterday, saying they had been told their services were no longer required because Serco would rely on security cameras for external surveillance.
Therese Mitchell worked her last shift yesterday after being told last Monday she was being retrenched. She said the blow came just two days before the six-month probation period clause in her contract expired.
“We thought we were going to be there until the detention centre was finished with,” Ms Mitchell said last night.
She was one of about 36 staff working for Wilson Security, who were subcontracted by Serco to guard the perimeter of the centre.
Serco staff guard the inmates inside the facility on behalf of the Immigration Department.
Ms Mitchell said all but nine of the Wilson security guards had been sacked and would struggle to find work elsewhere.
“The security industry is really dry, there’s no work out there,” she said.
Another guard, who did not want to be named, said he and the remaining Wilson workers also expected to get the sack within a fortnight.
“As of tomorrow, we will be guarding a short stretch of fence that has a couple of gaps underneath it and as soon as they fix those gaps we’ll be out of there I’m sure,” he said.
It was heart-breaking news after putting up with “horrible working conditions” for months. He said they often worked unprotected in sub-zero temperatures.
“One night, it got down to minus eight. We had one fellow go home one night with hypothermia,” he said.
He said they were continually promised by management that heated guard huts would be built, but they never arrived.
A spokesman for the Immigration Department said staffing and security issues were a matter for Serco.
A Serco spokesman said the security contractors were employed on a temporary basis while a surveillance system was brought online.
He said security at the centre was “robust” but did not respond to the guards’ claims that the surveillance system had been out of operation since Tuesday.
“We have staffing levels and security and contingency measures appropriate to the low-risk profile of the people in our care at Pontville,” he said.