Security guards at the National Gallery of Victoria International.

Australian Security Firm Accused of Underpaying Guards Who Work for the National Gallery of Victoria

The Australian security firm Building Risks International Pty. Limited—or BRI Security—has been accused of paying guards at two branches of the National Gallery of Victoria below the accepted wage and in cash, sans deductions for tax or entitlements, such as sick leave, writes Debbie Cuthbertson of the Sydney Morning Herald. The Australian Department of Treasury is launching an investigation into the matter. BRI won their contract from the museum in November 2015. They also have contracts with La Trobe University, Victoria’s Public Record Office, the Australia Council for the Arts, and the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

Belinda Panaou, a former guard with BRI, told a television news outlet that she was paid a flat hourly rate below the accepted wage for working on weekends. She alleges that she was fired by the firm in 2016 after she spoke to a staff member at the National Gallery of Victoria about her pay and poor working conditions. Though the issue was brought up with a member of the gallery’s operations team, its management was not aware of Panaou’s situation until she contacted the museum directly.

“The Department of Treasury and Finance and the [National Gallery of Victoria] have given [BRI] the opportunity to respond to these allegations of breaches of contract as a matter of urgency, after which we will take appropriate action,” the gallery said in a statement. “The investigation by [an] independent auditor . . . has concluded and the department has just recently met with the security service provider and sought an explanation within one week,” stated Robin Scott, the finance minister. “We should hear back from the provider shortly,” continued Scott, “but I can assure you we will not stand for workers’ rights and conditions being put at risk.”