Sydney AU July 13 2017 Security officers at several Sydney hospitals are fighting plans that would force them to wear a suit, which they say is "inappropriate and restrictive".
Seventeen guards at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital have unanimously voted against Sydney Local Health District's (SLHD) plans to roll out new security uniforms, saying they need functional clothing to do their jobs, which often involve restraining violent patients and visitors.
"The suits are inappropriate and restrictive and it's not like an ice addict is going to wait for you, like you can say: 'Hold on a minute, let me take off my suit jacket so I can restrain you,' " said Ron Pike, a Health Services Union organiser who has worked as an RPA security officer for seven years.
SLHD's chief executive Teresa Anderson said the new uniforms were part of a bigger strategy to create a safe and secure environment for patients.
She said the current "police-style" uniforms had a "paramilitary flavour", which may intimidate some patients, especially those who are sensitive to their surroundings.
"You might be sick with sepsis, get delirium and your behaviour might escalate. We want to have an environment where the officers can de-escalate issues in a quiet and calm way," she said.
"The old uniform with large boots is very police like, and our security staff are not police, they don't need to have that style in terms of the work they do."
She said they had tried several designs over the past couple of years and settled on a "breathable, flexible, wool-blend" suit that exuded a "quiet authority".
But Mr Pike said the trials had only confirmed to HSU members across the hospitals that SLHD was making the wrong decision, with some suits splitting at the seams.
"The other big issue is that security officers have to carry [personal protective equipment] like leather gloves, rubber gloves, eyewear, bunch of security keys, a radio, a pager, a notebook and a pen, and it's just not practical to carry all that in a suit," he said.
He rejected Dr Anderson's suggestion that suits would help "de-escalate" issues.
"It works in reverse because they will see you and behave themselves," he said. "The problem with the new suits is that they may think you're a doctor or a businessman."
The suit's breast pocket will feature a jacaranda tree encircled by the words "care and help".
The new uniform will come with RM William boots, a quick release tie and a Drizabone jacket.
Mr Pike said this was further evidence that money that should be spent on medical equipment was being wasted on clothes.
But Ms Anderson said the suits wouldn't cost much more than standard uniforms and the designer boots would last a long time.
Gerard Hayes, secretary of HSU NSW, said: "It's one thing for security officers at David Jones to wear suits, but it's another thing for those working in a clinical setting where people can get violent."