Manus asylum seekers left without food as guards protest
OUTRAGED Paladin security guards on Manus Island have refused to work for the company that paid them as little at $1.50 per hour, allegedly leaving refugees without food for a night.
Tensions hang in the balance this morning as Paladin employees debate whether the strike will continue for a third day.
"I think the situation is desperate for workers to step in to flow the operations," a Paladin bus driver said this morning.
Four employees were reportedly suspended when a Paladin Solutions manager attended a strike at a refugee centre in Lorengau, on Tuesday afternoon.
A group of about 500 Paladin employees staged a mass walk-off in support of the four men who organised a petition calling for better pay and safer working conditions.
"We are underpaid, they are not paying us our overtime and double-time, meals are not provided as they have promised, even the buses we are driving are not safe to be on the road," the driver said.
The Manusian driver, who asked not to be identified, was paid just over $3 an hour.
A pay slip issued to another Paladin worker showing an hourly rate of about $1.50 has also been sighted by the Courier Mail.
Paladin Group was awarded a $423 million contract from the Australian Government in September 2017 under a controversial closed tender process.
Security officers employed by the company and its subcontractors are responsible for managing refugee transit centres on Manus and facilitating medical transfers of refugees to the local hospital.
They also administer food deliveries to refugees twice a week.
On Tuesday, hundreds of men reportedly went without food when security guards did not show up at the East LorengauRefugee Transit Centre.
"Today the centre is still empty, no security workers are here" Somali refugee Mohammad Ali Abdi said earlier today.
Food rations were delivered to refugees yesterday the Courier Mail understands.
A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs said all sites were reported to be calm and all residents were safe and refugees had access to healthcare.
"Not all staff are on strike and essential services continue to be provided, including security and the provision of food and water," the spokesperson said.
On Tuesday, Paladin workers issued a three-day ultimatum for working conditions and wages to be improved.
"We are rightful citizens of this island nation being affected," their petition states.
"Guards are not compensated fairly. They can be easily harassed, attacked or assaulted."
In a statement provided to employees, Paladin Group CEO David Saul said the company was working to fix salary issues and improve the quality of food provided to workers.
"An investigation into salary issues is underway and resolving the issues raised in the petition is a top priority for management," he said.
"We will immediately fix the pay rates for people that are on probation but are still on probation rates."
Mr Saul said other salary issues would be resolved.
A Paladin Group spokesperson said the company was not able to comment on the strike due to terms in its contract with the Australian Government.
"Our number one priority and focus right now is the safety, security and wellbeing of our staff, the communities in which we operate and the people in our care," the spokesperson said.