Today, around 30 Protective Services Officers (PSO) at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH) protested the massive safety issues they are forced to confront on a daily basis.
United Workers Union (UWU) members, who make up the majority of PSOs at the hospital, have overwhelmingly voted in favour of industrial action against their employer, facilities management giant, Downer (trading as Spotless) and as part of that are undertaking a protected two hour stop work strike.
Downer, which bought out Spotless, is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange 200 and recorded a profit after tax of $174 million last financial year.
Bargaining with the company has been ongoing for almost a year and the workers are tired but resolved in improving the workplace not just for themselves, but for the other hospital staff and patients.
UWU coordinator Damien Davie said Downer was an extremely profitable company and could afford to pay its workers inline with workers at other hospitals that were directly employed by the Queensland Government.
“Workers that continually put their safety on the line at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital deserve respect and they deserve more than the minimums,” Mr Davie said.
“Because of the terrible wages, PSOs are continually operating short-staffed which is putting medical staff and the general public at risk.”
SCUH PSO, Adrian Goodwin said Downer continually based all of its operational decisions on profit alone.
“Officers are continually facing crisis staffing levels coupled with ever increasing acts of violence levelled towards them from patients,” Mr Downer said.
“It is and always will be, the aim of every officer to facilitate a safe working environment for all Queensland Health professionals however, we feel as though we are working with one hand tied behind our backs.
A supervisor from the site, Ash Mills said the short-staffing levels were a disaster waiting to happen.
“We are constantly threatened by patients that say ‘they will find us out side of the work place and will kill and bash us and our families’ this has made myself become more hypervigilent when in the community with my family,” Mr Mills said.
“We deal with patients who will bite their lip to make themselves bleed and then spit it at us as a weapon.”
A casual PSO, Jo Maslen said her payslip was always incorrect and the company made it difficult to follow up upon.
“Whilst being a casual, I have worked for a period on six months, of which nearly every payslip was wrong or inconsistent,” Ms Maslen said.
“There have been times also for a large portion of that six months where I’ve had to submit payroll queries because I was missing anywhere up to $1200.”
PSO Simon Haughton said being a Protective Services Officer was much more involved than the title suggested.
“It’s a job where the safety of Queensland Health Staff, patients and visitors is at the forefront of our responsibility. We are requested by clinicians to assist with the direct care and treatment of patients 24/7, 365 days a year,” Mr Haughton said.
“We can be directed to assist with the care of a wide variety of patients whose presentations range from highly aggressive and threatening behaviour, complex mental health related issues, confused and vulnerable dementia patients and children and adolescent related presentations.”
UWU members at the SCUH said they would continue to escalate action until Downer returned with a more respectful offer.