Coronavirus

Melbourne's Disgraced Hotel Quarantine Program Hired Security Workers via WhatsApp

It turns out the same guards facing allegations of having sex with quarantine guests were also recruited via a shady WhatsApp drive.
22 July 2020, 5:35am
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Image via WILLIAM WEST / AFP (L) and Pxhere (R)

Security guards contracted to work at a Melbourne hotel as part of the city's vexed COVID-19 quarantine program were in some cases hired via WhatsApp messages and told to supply their own PPE.

Just weeks after the state of Victoria announced a judicial inquiry into its hotel quarantine program—amid scandalous allegations that, among other things, a worker at one of the hotels had sex with an infected guest—an industry insider has revealed that she received offers of employment from an unknown company via WhatsApp.

"They actually contacted me and they're like, 'would you like to work at this place?’" Shayla Shakshi told the ABC. "And I'm like, ‘I don't know what you guys are, what company, nothing’. I just got told that you need to be here at a certain time and you're going to dress in a certain way and this is your pay rate. That's it."

Melbourne’s quarantine program came under fire in June after it was revealed that the Victorian Government contracted private security operators to guard hotel quarantine guests at two accommodation facilities in the city’s CBD: the Stamford Plaza and the Rydges on Swanston. Many of Victoria’s coronavirus cases over the past six weeks have been traced back to those hotels and linked to the failings of those operators, including damning reports that staff carpooled to and from shifts and slept with guests in quarantine.

New revelations about the obscure recruitment process and questionable operating standards casts further doubt over the professionalism of the companies involved—which include MMS Security and Unified Security.

The ABC revealed that on May 30, three days after the first hotel coronavirus outbreak at Rydges on Swanston, there was a call out for 40 guards to take on shifts at the hotel. Another person in the WhatsApp group reportedly flagged that there were "six corona positive guards in Carlton hotel… so please be careful", but received no response.

Shakshi further claimed that security workers weren’t even trained in how to use PPE or sanitise their hands.

"We didn't get any training when I got there," she said. “No training at all. Then some levels didn't have sanitisers, so it was really tricky. You just didn't want to touch anything."

At the end of her first shift, Shakshi recalls that she was told to "bring your own masks from tomorrow, bring your own gloves, your own sanitisers, because we might run out because we have so many guards on site."

"I was like, no, I don't want to work at a place which is so unsafe,” she said. "I just didn't want to go back there."

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that the Victorian Government would provide $3 million to support the inquiry into the state's hotel quarantine program, which is still ongoing.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.