Violence on the wards: security review

Sharleen Harney-Kiriona: assaulted on the job

After a string of violent assaults on our hospital security guard members, and media reports of violence on hospital wards, District Health Boards (DHBs) have agreed to your union’s request for a review of hospital security.

Discussions are underway at the Canterbury DHB, where four of our guards were injured in recent months. The DHB’s security contractor is Allied Security, which is also the provider for the Waikato DHB, where another two of our security guard members were attacked. Our member, Sharleen Harney-Kiriona, who is one of those guards, faces months of recovery for broken bones in her arm, hands, and face.

Sharleen is gagged by Allied Security from speaking publicly, but her children have spoken out, revealing chronic understaffing which saw their mother hounded by Allied Security to work every spare moment.

“My mum was constantly called in. They’d almost harass her,” says daughter Tajuana Eltringham. “She’d ignore it, then they’d phone her using a private number, so she’d pick up the phone. They tried Facebook Live, Messenger… and she’d already worked for 60 hours.

“Some weeks she wasn’t home at all, with no days off, not even one, and she’s supposed to have three. It’s ridiculous how much she was working and wearing herself out for the amount she was paid as well,” she says.

Meanwhile, enquiries by our Hamilton organiser have revealed major health and safety failings and omissions at the Waikato DHB, including a failure to properly log and investigate incidents.

But in fact, the problems are nationwide, with our members reporting chronic under-staffing, a lack of proper training, and constant assaults on the wards.

Your union’s preference is to see services brought in-house as is the case at Auckland DHB, with Bay of Plenty DHB soon to follow suit. Your union believes the standards are better because the DHB is accountable. That issue will be fully examined as part of the review.

“It’s about looking at different models and what’s working,” says E tū Auckland delegate Laufili Moli, who will be taking part in the review.

“I’ve seen myself when our service was brought in-house, we saw a big improvement in our training and the support we get from other staff. Last week I had to restrain a patient, and one of the nurses who had received some basic calming and restraint training helped me until reinforcements could arrive. I don’t think that would’ve happened before.”

Contract protection support sought for guards

New steps are being taken to protect security guards from having their conditions of employment reduced when there is a change of contract for security services.

E tū has lodged an application with the Minister of Employment Relations, Iain Lees-Galloway, to have security officers covered under Schedule 1A of the Employment Relations Act, and therefore protected in the event of transfer or sale of a business, as cleaners and catering workers are currently.

This means that if a security company loses a contract, the workers keep their jobs, pay, and conditions and simply move to the new company if they wish.