What about the security companies? Don’t they have corporate ethical responsibility?

We are in stage 4 of the lock-down in Melbourne and that has great implications for personal and social life as well as the economy. As a result of the lock-down, listeners have contacted radio stations, approving of it because it would finally bring about the end of the spreading of Covid-19.

But there was also palpable anger at worse and annoyance at best with the premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrew by some of the listeners. As one listener summed it up, “the premier had mishandled the hotel quarantine creating a Petri dish of infections that has spread throughout Melbourne”.

Expediently, the Victorian opposition recognising the political advantage they could gain, criticised him for mishandling the lock-down and particularly the failure of hotel quarantine. No doubt the hotel quarantine was not the success it should or could have been, but was it completely Daniel Andrews fault? What about the security companies? Did they not have the responsibility to work within corporate forms of ethical standards?

The security firms used according News.com and Four Corners (17/8/2020) were MSS, Unified and Wilson. It is interesting to look up what security companies offer and promise. Generally speaking, they offer expert security guards that are reinforced by extensive training, cutting-edge technology and a desire for customer care. Can we believe them? I would suggest that the underlying reason for employing them in the hotels was the logical belief in the security companies’ ability, trustworthiness and skills to perform the guarding duties of the quarantined travellers in the respective hotels.

The reality is that security guards were not reliable due to lack of training and their respective employers could not be trusted to fulfil their own mission statement of training, helped by technology and customer care. The reasons are generally straightforward. The 7:30 Report (21/7) interviewed a very young woman who the security company had employed for the purpose of guarding returning travellers. She was extremely young and I am not sure she had had any training at all in expert security guarding that was reinforced by extensive training and cutting-edge technology. She was employed from the Internet and asked to bring her own mask and gloves for her second day on the job. She was sensible enough to decide not to go back.

According to a DHHS epidemiologist, it appears that of the 2109 Victorian geonomically sequenced coronavirus cases only 103 are not linked to the Rydges Hotel. There is now little doubt that this was at least one of the major sources of spreading the virus. How can the relevant security company justify their professional existence? If a company cannot supply the needed staff and cannot train them it is their responsibility to be open and frank about it. They should not have agreed to these kinds of arrangements.

Importantly, it has been rarely mentioned but the security companies were also derelict in their corporate codes of ethics and moral obligations. Several universal moral values for corporate codes of ethics were ignored: such as trustworthiness responsibility, honesty and care among others. Minimally, they were derelict in their trustworthiness responsibility and honesty, which led to illness and death because they used industry subcontractors, who recruited security guards. According to some guards interviewed they received no training or minimal training. They certainly did not have extensive training supported by cutting-edge technology. According to one of the guards who was stationed at the Rydges hotel, he was not given any training in infection control and was issued with one mask for the 12 hours shift for which he was contracted. So, whether they were employed under the government’s social inclusion policy as Unified Security argued in their defence or through other means it appears that guards were not trained to deal with the task.

The mistake the Andrew government did made was to believe in the reliability, truth, or ability of security companies to do the job assigned to them. Clearly some did but others clearly did not, instead sent untrained guards who had no idea what they were doing. Most of us barely understand how the Covid-19 spreads so how can we expect these guards to have even a basic inkling about what their responsibility entailed, without proper training. The blame must be laid at the Security Companies. They failed the security guards whom they employed, the travellers and their employer the State Government of Victoria.

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Dr Rivka T Witenberg is an academic and writer focusing on moral development and tolerance. Latest publication: The psychology of tolerance: Conception and development

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