6 Jul 2021

Covid-19: Government struggling to recruit MIQ security staff

8:22 am on 6 July 2021

The government is struggling to recruit more than 100 security staff needed for the managed isolation and quarantine hotels.

Pullman Hotel in Auckland. Managed isolation facility.

The Defence Force has been asked to cover security roles at MIQ facilities. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Following a privacy breach in August last year when a security guard posted a list of names of people staying in MIQ the government said remaining security staff would be employed directly by MBIE in future.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) began advertising the jobs in April, eight months after it announced the change and said hiring would be complete by July.

Only 48 of the 156 advertised roles for security staff have so far been filled, despite 632 applications.

In a statement, Joint Head of MIQ Brigadier Rose King said more would be starting in the "coming weeks" and the aim was to fill all the available positions.

King said since the privacy breach in August they had downsized the number of employed private security firms from 18 to one - First Security.

"We need to retain one private security company so that we have some surge capacity and contingency support across our 31 facilities," King said.

But with private contracts stripped back to one company and the struggle to fill the remaining roles, the Defence Force has been asked to fill the gaps.

To make up the numbers, MBIE went to the Defence Force in June and asked for an additional 133 people to fill the remaining security roles and bolster the response.

These were "on-duty numbers" and did not include those who were off shift or reserves for sickness. The actual number of staff needed in security roles is actually closer to 200.

A Defence Force spokesperson said the Navy and Air Force were covering most of the extra security roles in Auckland, while the army was helping there too, and also in the central North Island and South Island.

The total number of defence personnel working at MIQ facilities was now 874, and of those 530 were in security jobs.

There are 850 security roles at the MIQ facilities. The current workforce is made up of personnel from the Defence Force, Aviation Security (AVSEC), private security firms and MBIE.

"We have been progressively moving to a security workforce that is mostly employed by these government agencies, to reduce the reliance on contracted security personnel in our facilities. Ultimately, we are working towards this being about 85 per cent of the security personnel required. "

The Defence Force said there was no end date for when its people would stop doing security at the hotels, although the current agreement with the government ends at the end of 2022.

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