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Security firms inundated and unable to cope with pre-Christmas demand

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The New Zealand Security Association said the industry was short of almost 3000 staff members.
Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Security companies say there is a massive demand for services and staff are struggling to cope in the run-up to Christmas.

With hundreds of ram raids in the past year and the festive season just around the corner, some are turning away potential clients because they are so short-staffed.

The Red Badge Group is one of them. Executive director Andy Gollings said the company was sometimes having to reject clients due to high workload.

“We are able to be selective about where we work, but there are times that we have to say – at the moment we cannot support that particular additional work.”

He said the company was having to think outside the box on how to attract the new workers.

“We are trying as much as possible to pay living wage and above. What we are trying to do is become a very staff central organisation to maintain the fact that no one is a number, we need to be a great place to work.”

Gollins said the increase on retail crime prompted the company to step forward and pave the way to provide safe environments to its guards.

“We tightened up on the refresher training. There needs to be a level of safety awareness, personal awareness, conflict, de-escalation skills and that sort of stuff at the very start of a guard’s duty.

“What we did was immediately increase the frequency of the regular safety training. It just makes safety more important.”

The New Zealand Security Association said the industry was short of almost 3000 staff members, including guards, technicians and monitoring operators.

Chief executive Garry Morrison said, with the rise in crime against retail shops, companies were taking a toll.

“It is not just guards, it also applies to electronic security things like fog cannons, toughen glass, bollards, so it’s all across the Security Industry, but certainly quite a significant increase on demand at the moment.”

But what are the powers of a security guard against street crime?

Morrison said safety was key. Their [guards] role is not there to actively get involved in confrontation, he said.

“They are very much a deterrent and if something does happen, they then become that front-line response to look for the safety for the staff and to protect the scene and assist the police,” he said.

“The role is not there to confront the offenders as such.”

But with the cost-of-living sky high, only those with money under their belts can afford extra security.

Retailers Association chief executive Greg Harford said for many shop owners, having a private guard was far from being a reality.

“There are a number of retail businesses that have got security guards in place to guard against crime, but the reality is – it’s really expensive, it’s mostly larger firms with the pockets that are able to put those guards in place.”

The democratic union E tū represented thousands of security guards and has advocated to the Fair Payment Agreements Bill, that became law last month and will take place from the 1 December.

Team leader Sarah Thompson said with the new law, companies won’t be able to drop wage costs in order to offer clients better pricing.

“The fair pay agreement is really useful for this because it will lift the minimum standards of paying conditions for all workers across security.

“That will mean that it will be harder for companies to compete on price and, instead, they will have to look to compete in other things, like the quality of their services.”

Thompson said the industry was undervalued and companies would have to step up their game in order to fill their empty positions.

“We need to see an increase in wages so people can do shorter shifts and less hours – it’s very common for security guards to work 60 hours per week,” she said.

“And increased health and safety and training will be incredibly important for the industry to attract new workers.”

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