A teenage security guard who sensationally exposed alleged shortcomings in Melbourne’s botched hotel quarantine program has been accused by the company of making ‘unfounded claims’
Shayla Shakshi, 19, had claimed she had been recruited via WhatsApp and told to work without any training.
But in a memo to MSS Security staff obtained by Daily Mail Australia, the company has strongly refuted all of the allegations aired by ABC’s 7.30 – and claimed Ms Shakshi was sacked for failing to socially distance from other staff.
Shayla Shakshi worked as a security guard at a Melbourne coronavirus quarantine hotel
‘The claims made by a former Security Officer in this report are serious and while MSS Security does not make comment to the media, we would like to provide you with the below information for your assurance that the claims made are not accurate, and are misleading,’ MSS director Geoff Alcock told staff.
Victoria recorded nine deaths and 295 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday as it grapples with a second wave of coronavirus infections.
The outbreak came after new COVID-19 cases in late May and early June were linked to infection control breaches by security guards at quarantine hotels.
An inquiry is investigating a string of shocking claims, including that security guards had sex with returned travellers who they were supposed to be ensuring were isolating.
Ms Shakshi had told the ABC she worked one shift subcontracted to The Stamford Plaza hotel in Melbourne because she was concerned safety precautions were not being followed and her co-workers treated coronavirus as a ‘joke’.
‘It’s just like guards were hitting each other. They were hugging each other. They were touching each other. They weren’t actually serious about how serious this COVID is.
‘They were taking it as a joke. Like, ”It’s just some virus that anyone can get. We’re not going to get it”.’
But in the memo to staff, Mr Alcock claimed Ms Shakshi was in fact sacked for carrying out the same breaches she had levelled at others.
‘The security officer was removed for…the very behaviour and lack of social distancing she claims to have occurred between other security officers on the site.’
Ms Shakshi, who is from Melbourne’s north, was offered the gig via messaging platform Whatsapp in May and claimed she was not given proper training
The Truth According To MSS Security
The Security Officer was never deployed to the Stamford Plaza as she claimed
In fact, she only worked for shifts at the Four Points Sheraton in early April
Following an investigation at the time, the Security Officer was removed formisconduct having admitted in writing, to the very behaviour and lack of social distancing she claims to have occurred between other Security Officers on site
The Security Officer was not recruited via WhatsApp, rather she was referred by another employee of the subcontractor she was employe
WhatsApp is not used for any recruitment purposes by the subcontractor
-The Security Officer was appropriately remunerated for all completed shifts
The Security Officer is fully licensed and completed her government mandated infection control training
Furthermore, the memo claimed Ms Shakshi had admitted her wrongdoing in writing to the company.
MSS told staff Ms Shakshi had never even worked at the Stamford, where many of the contracted guards are accused of misbehaving.
‘I cannot speak to her motivations to make such unfounded claims but as I have said previously MSS Security is proud of its compliance record, we stand by our ethical and integrity-based approach to this, and all our contracts. Thank you for your support,’ Mr Alcock told staff.
Ms Shakshi, who is from Melbourne’s north, had told the ABC she was offered the job via messaging platform Whatsapp in May and claimed she was not given proper training.
‘I was hired on a Whatsapp group and I just got told that you need to be here at this certain time and you’re going to dress in a certain way and this is your pay rate and that’s it,’ she said.
‘We never got any training. We had to put a mask on and gloves on and that was it. It was like, ”OK, how do I wear a mask? How do I sanitise?”’
The teenager claimed she was taken into a meeting at the end of her shift, where she was asked to bring her own personal protective equipment for the next day.
Ms Shakshi said she was told: ‘OK, guys, you have got to come in a team and bring your own masks from tomorrow. Bring your own gloves, your own sanitisers because me might run out because we have so many guards on site.’
But Ms Shakshi said it was her ‘first and last shift’ at the site as she ‘didn’t want to go back there’ amid the alleged safety breaches.
Pictured: Returned travellers are seen carrying their luggage ahead of two weeks hotel quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic
The hotel quarantine program is now subject to an inquiry, which was launched by the state government and is headed by retired judge Jennifer Coate.
‘Information already available to the inquiry suggests the possibility of a link between many of the cases of coronavirus identified in the Victorian community in the past few weeks and persons who were quarantined under the hotel quarantine program,’ senior assisting counsel Tony Neal QC said.
‘Comments made by the chief health officer to the media have suggested that it may even be that every case of COVID-19 in Victoria in recent weeks could be sourced to the hotel quarantine program.’
The decisions and communications between the government, hotel operators and private contractors will be examined and submissions have been ordered from them by the end of the week.
All returned travellers to Australia are required to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine to stop coronavirus from spreading through the country. Pictured: People depart a bus
Pictured: Returned travellers in face masks arrive at an airport during the coronvirus pandemic
That includes the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, Department of Treasury and Finance, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Victoria Police, Emergency Management Victoria and Ambulance Victoria.
Two hotels with known large coronavirus outbreaks, Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza have been put on notice, along with Travelodge Melbourne, Park Royal Hotel Melbourne Airport, Holiday Inn Melbourne and Four Points Sheraton.
Quarantine security guards were provided by the government and were not employed by the respective hotels.
The hotels were not responsible for selecting the guards or ensuring they obtained proper training.
The eight security companies of interest to the inquiry are Wilson Security, United Risk Management, Unified Security Group, Ultimate Protection Services, MSS security, Elite Protection Services, Australian Protection Group and Security Hub.
Medical experts, hotel staff and returned travellers who stayed in quarantine will be called to give evidence.
Employers face significant penalties if they attempt to deter employees from giving evidence to the inquiry.
‘I expect no less than full, frank and timely cooperation from all government entities and persons to enable me to do my job for the people of Victoria,’ Justice Coate said.
Public hearings will be held from August 6 and a final report is due on September 25.
All returned travellers to Australia are required to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine to stop coronavirus from spreading through the country.
Pictured: Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel watch over returning overseas travellers in March
Pictured: A Victorian Police officer wears a face mask outside a quarantine hotel in Melbourne