The West

Serco strike threat
Serco strike threat

Immigration detention centre staff across Australia are looking to take industrial action this week over a pay dispute with security company Serco.

But the company still hopes to force unions to the bargaining table at a hearing of the industrial umpire Fair Work Australia on Friday.

Union United Voice will likely apply to take industrial action after a national conference with members tomorrow.

The action could range from minor disruptions to security staff walking off the job at all immigration detention centres.

It is unclear what the Government would do to secure immigration detention centres if staff went on strike.

United Voice is demanding Serco award detention centre workers a pay rise of 4 per cent. The company has offered 3 per cent.

A Serco spokesman confirmed the company had applied to force mediation with United Voice.

"We are continuing to negotiate with the United Voice union on a new enterprise agreement for employees," the spokesman said. "We are committed to delivering a fair and reasonable agreement for the next three years, and hope to reach an outcome in the near future."

United Voice has complained immigration detention centres are badly understaffed and claims the lack of personnel has led directly to the series of breakouts from the detention centre in Northam in recent weeks.

On a State level, Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis will not commit to holding a public inquiry into its custodial services contract with Serco. After weeks of calls from WA Labor and the Prison Officers Union for an inquiry, Serco's Australia-Pacific chief executive Mark Irwin told _The West Australian _the company would welcome a public inquiry.

The company has been under fire after a string of high-profile escapes of prisoners.

A spokeswoman for Mr Francis did not directly answer when asked if he would hold an inquiry.

Instead, she said Mr Francis was waiting to receive investigation reports into recent escapes, including a January 3 incident when convicted rapist Cameron Graham and Kelden Fraser broke out of a prison van at Geraldton airport. Shadow corrective services minister Paul Papalia said the case was now overwhelming for a public inquiry, which should be headed by an independent person, such as a senior judicial officer who had the power to compel witnesses to appear.

"Now even Serco agrees," he said. "The only people who don't want an inquiry are the Barnett Government. It's extraordinary."

The West Australian

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