Eden Park security staff talk of boycott

By Michael Dickison

Security staff from Darien Rush Security working outside Eden Park. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Security staff from Darien Rush Security working outside Eden Park. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Security officers at the firm operating in Eden Park have threatened boycotts because they say they are unpaid, understaffed, undertrained and unprepared for the Rugby World Cup.

Darien Rush Security has been awarded a contract through the Auckland Council to manage security outside Eden Park, North Harbour Stadium and Vector Arena through the tournament period, and by Eden Park for security within the stadium.

But the company is mired in financial and employment problems - liquidators are pursuing $2 million in debts to Inland Revenue and others from a disputed purchase; a union says it has received 16 individual complaints, most of them about wages not being paid; and the Employment Relations Authority has upheld three personal grievances in the past year.

The council last night asked Darien Rush to provide a "prompt response" to the concerns. The company said its chief operating officer, Jason Brott, was too busy preparing for the Blues game to respond directly, but delivered a statement through a public relations firm that it was meeting all obligations to employees and World Cup organisers.

Unite union security organiser Barry Sutherland said 16 individual complaints had been lodged against Darien Rush Security.

Most grievances were about not getting paid, but he said he was also concerned that none of the 16 officers making complaints was licensed.

Darien Rush plans to almost double its workforce, from 800 to up to 1500, in time for the World Cup.

"How many are going to be licensed and trained, with one company supplying so much manpower to all these areas?" Mr Sutherland asked. "I reckon New Zealand is going to look like a bunch of morons from a security perspective."

The union is yet to deliver the complaints to Darien Rush, but an organiser has represented complainants before the Employment Relations Authority as recently as January. Since October, Darien Rush has been ordered to pay more than $29,000 in costs, compensation, disbursements and arrears of wages in three cases adjudicated by the authority.

Meanwhile, the Auckland Council is withholding a report about its risks in spending $180,000 doing business with Darien Rush as the firm is being pursued by liquidator Indepth Forensic over a disputed $2.5 million purchase of another company.

Debts held by the purchased company include $757,000 owed to one of the World Cup's main sponsors, ANZ Bank, $660,000 to Inland Revenue and $615,000 to four other creditors.

An Auckland Council spokesman said: "The council cannot comment on these allegations but will refer them to Darien Rush, requesting a prompt response back to council."

The security firm said the allegations about it were untrue. "In a business with more than 800 employees, there are bound to be employment issues that arise from time to time," it said.

Staff were paid in accordance with their terms and conditions of employment, Eden Park was fully staffed, and all security staff required to have a licence had one or had applied for one. The dispute over the $2 million debt had arisen when it bought the business assets of Strategic Security but not the company, and it therefore had no liability for the debts, it said.

Rugby NZ 2011 head of security Gavin McFadyen said tournament organisers had tested security arrangements at Super rugby matches and were satisfied.

Eden Park marketing manager Tracy Morgan said the stadium was happy with the service delivered by Darien Rush Security and had no plans to review its security provider.

NZ Security Association chairman Alistair Hogg said an application for membership had been received from Darien Rush, but until the circumstances around the liquidation proceedings cleared up it was unlikely to be progressed.

'Morale of the guys is so low'

Staff at Darien Rush Security say they are worried about coping with crowds at the Rugby World Cup this year.

Officers spoke to the Weekend Herald this week about their concerns over pay and conditions on condition of anonymity.

"The morale of the guys is so low - you expect to work and get paid, but no," the officer said. "Guys are walking off the job".

A group of workers had begun threatening to boycott events at Eden Park due to working conditions, including last night's Blues match, he said.

"We're not just dumb security guards - as people think we are. We've seen the big, red sign that this has got to be dealt with."

He was thinking of looking for another job, but wanted to stay for the World Cup, for which he had concerns.

Another worker said disgruntled officers were leaving and being replaced by untrained workers.

- NZ Herald

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