Who really wants Serco to remain in Australia? Not the people

With so many unanswered questions, privatisation is not the way forward for helping people. But then again, that’s not the point, is it? It’s about profit above humanity:

The private company that runs the Christmas Island detention centre should be stripped of its contract, and control of the network returned to the Commonwealth, says the union representing its workers.

The head of the Christmas Island union, Kaye Bernard, warned privatisation of the detention centres – which have been stricken by riots, overcrowding and suicide attempts this year – has failed and ”compromised” employee safety.

She has accused Serco, the British company reaping millions of dollars from its five-year contract with the federal government to run the swelling immigration detention centres, of misleading a parliamentary inquiry on the extent of training it provides to workers. She said the company, which does not provide access to its records to immigration department staff within the centres, is guilty of significant under-reporting.

Politicians, including opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, will travel to Christmas Island tomorrow for inquiry hearings.

In her submission to the inquiry, Ms Bernard has called for an independent audit of the Serco contract by the Commonwealth Auditor General, and for Serco logs to be tabled.

”Given the extent of breaches of the contract that has compromised the safety of workers, we have little or no confidence in Serco continuing in the contract,” she said. ”We are asking for the public service to do away with privatisation. Clearly, privatisation has not worked.”

The Christmas Island union represents the army of private guards, administration staff, drivers, cleaners and other workers who keep the North West Point and Phosphate Hill detention centres in operation.

The CPSU, which represents the public servants working for the Department of Immigration, supported the call for detention centres to return to government control.

In its own submission to the inquiry, the CPSU has detailed complaints that Serco guards are not adequately trained, are giving incorrect information to asylum seekers, do not keep sufficient records, are overworked, and that workplaces are unsafe.

”Serco should employ and roster sufficient guards,” the CPSU said.

Immigration staff reported being embarrassed by Serco behaviour towards asylum seekers.

There are 75 immigration department staff on Christmas Island, and 338 working in detention centres across the network. Serco has refused to disclose its staffing levels.

Nine in 10 departmental staff at detention centres reported being stressed. One said: ”Christmas Island – I’ve seen things go wrong badly and the staff just don’t know what to do.”

Serco sent a legal team to Christmas Island last week to prepare its records in advance of the inquiry.

In its submission, Serco says it is performing its role in ”extremely difficult” conditions due to the increased number of asylum seekers last year, and overcrowding.

Serco said its training meets the minimum standards under the contract, and staff are given an induction course, with select staff receiving crisis management training.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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