By BELINDA SCOTT
ALEX Waddell is one browned-off security guard.
He is one of seven security guards working at Coffs Harbour Health Campus who went on strike last week in an attempt to get their award wages and superannuation entitlements paid.
Mr Waddell said they had endured two years of being underpaid and getting no superannuation levy paid by their employer, security contractor Abacus Security and Surveillance NSW Pty Ltd.
He said their plight had been ignored by their union, the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union (LHMWU), because they were working at a facility which was administered by a department managed by a State Labor Government and an appeal to the NSW Minister for Industrial Relations had received no reply.
He said the management of the hospital had also turned a blind eye to their problems.
When the Coffs Harbour Health Campus recently decided to award a second two-year contract to the same firm, the security guards feared they would end up being shifted to a new entity as part of internal upheavals at Abacus and would end up losing all their entitlements for good unless they took action.
"We don't want anything extra. We just want what we are entitled to," Mr Waddell said.
"It's hard enough to get jobs in this town, but I'm making a stand."
He said the hospital should have known that the tender from Abacus would not allow them to pay award wages.
Mr Waddell said the guards had warned the hospital administration that Abacus was in financial difficulties but the hospital had gone ahead and awarded them the new contract.
A new adviser to Abacus Security, Bob Dunger, arrived in Coffs Harbour on Tuesday and will be working out of the Park Beach Plaza office of Abacus for the next week.
"There are some issues with the management of Abacus and they are being worked through as we speak," Mr Dunger said.
He said the hospital guards would be paid, he hoped by tomorrow; he would be meeting them and was planning to get them back to work, but in order to not inflame the situation he did not want to nominate the time and place of the meeting.
Mr Waddell said guards had become angry recently after being forced to wait for hours at the Abacus office to be paid and had finally been given some of their entitlements in cash, with no pay slips.
Mr Dunger, who said he began advising Abacus just seven days ago, said so far he had had no contact with the union or anyone outside the company and he had not yet seen the contract between the health campus and Abacus.
He would not comment on the state of industrial relations between Abacus and its security guards on other sites, which include Park Beach Plaza, Coffs Harbour Airport, and Coffs Harbour International Stadium.
A Park Beach Plaza spokesman said they had had no problems with Abacus.
The manager of corporate and business services at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus, Geoff Hampton, said he understood there had been some differences between a group of guards and Abacus and there had been 'a couple of problem areas' over security at the campus, but the hospital did not get directly involved between Abacus and its guards and he did not want to inflame the situation.
However he said the health campus wanted to ensure the contractor did the right thing by the guards as well as providing a security service.
He said the health campus always had contingency plans and now had an Abacus guard on site as well as an internal health and security assistant.
Mr Hampton said the campus had carried out all appropriate checks on Abacus two years ago and there had been no reason not to award them either that contract or the new contract, which Abacus had won as part of an open tender process.