Feedback from Members – Serco Fitness Policy Consultation

Serco has proposed a new fitness standard for Detention Officers. United Voice delegates discussed Serco’s proposal at the National Consultative Committee and demanded the right to meet with the members to discuss the union’s response.

United Voice members met at each centre to discuss Serco’s proposed policies. It’s clear that United Voice members are opposed to the Serco’s fitness for work policy. These are the results of the consultation meetings:

What must be changed before members can agree?

Fitness to Work testing must not result in termination:

  • There must be a guarantee that this testing will not lead to disciplinary action. If an employee is genuinely unable to perform their duties, this will be apparent whether or not they pass the fitness to work standard. The company has its normal disciplinary or independent medical examination procedures in case of misconduct or a failure to meet the inherent requirements of the job.

  • The policy must be clear that a referral to a doctor after being rated Bronze is not an independent medical examination for the purposes of assessing whether or not an employee meets the inherent requirements of the job.

  • The fitness testing cannot be a fishing expedition for terminations.

Preparation and training for testings:

  • Serco must provide employees with support to achieve the new level of fitness. Serco must provide either:
    • an allowance to cover the cost of gym/pool memberships; or
    •  the provision of adequate gym facilities at the workplace and the opportunity to train on paid time.

  • Serco must also account for the specific conditions of different centres. For instance, officers at Yongah Hill often travel for more than one hour to attend work. This makes exercise outside of work time. Officers at centres closer to officers’ homes may prefer to receive an allowance. Serco must consult at each centre for the appropriate option.
  • Serco must ensure that workers injured while training to pass the test are covered by worker compensation.


Privacy and dignity:

  • The privacy and dignity of all employees must be protected while performing the test. The grading or scoring of an employee must be kept confidential. Testing should be conducted in a way that limits any imposition on an officer’s privacy. This must be specifically provided for by the policy.


When the test is carried out:

  • Officers report being seriously fatigued by the third day of the Refresher Training. The test must be conducted earlier in the Refresher Training.


Step Test:

  • This is too onerous and must be revised.


Support after the test:

  • If an officer is rated ‘bronze’, the policy must explain the steps that Serco will take to support the officer to meet the fitness standard. This support must be material, vague advice about nutrition and fitness is not good enough. 


  • Is there a need for Gold, Silver and Bronze. There doesn’t seem to be any need for silver and bronze. Two ratings: ‘Satisfactory’ or ‘Needs Improvement’ would be more appropriate.


What questions must Serco answer before members can agree?

  • Are members covered by workers compensation during the test? Further, if the officer is training to pass the test outside of work hours, will they be covered by workers compensation?
  • Will testing be performed offsite? If so, when or where?
    • Why are there are age based / gender based modifications/limits on all exercises with the exception of times for planking and arm raisers (superman) parts of the testing.
  • How will the privacy and dignity of employees be protected? Has Serco considered the impact of this test of employee’s mental health?
  • If the member fails the test, will officers have paid time to attend doctors or health plan providers?
  • Practical questions about the test:
    • What is the height of the step test?
    • Cardiovascular test is the same as the ERT test?
    • What are modified push ups?
    • What is the recovery rate on cardiovascular test. (look back to original policy, step test, check recovery, original testing). Is recovery rate part of the test?
  • How do modified or age appropriate push ups etc mean equal levels of physical fitness, strength, abilities?
  • How were the levels determined? Was it against a bench mark?
    • What was Border force's original requirements for the level of fitness for Officers who work within the detention industry before Serco negotiated it down to current level?
    • Can Serco provide any correspondence that describes the physical fitness requirements set by the Border Force or through the contract with the Commonwealth Government.
  • Is the current draft of exercises permanent or will they be added to over time.
  • If you pass gold, do you now qualify for aviation? IF this interferes with the entitlement to access the IAA roster we will be in dispute.
  • What is the definition of minimum level of fitness and appropriate level of fitness?
  • What protections will Serco provide to ensure that officers are not injured during testing? If the activities are not properly supervised, the there is a risk actions may be performed incorrectly leading to injuries not caused by a lack of physical fitness? 
  • BITA concerned about staff who are 70+ and a big age gap. Discrimination if people are 70/75.

The fitness policy will be discussed further at the NCC on 9 March 2017. 

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