NGV accused of underpaying its guards

Visual Arts Writer

Evidence is increasing of a salary rort at Victoria's premier gallery with security sub-contractors paying gallery guards in cash and below award rates.
NGV accused of underpaying its guards

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) has come under attack over allegations of a wage scandal involving its sub-contracted security guards

An ABC Investigation has claimed that security guards at the Gallery were require to take illegal cash payments below award rates.


The guard told the ABC that he, and many other colleagues, were paid in cash with a flat hourly rate on weekends, which was below the award. No tax was paid and no entitlements given. He said when he had questioned the cash payment,​ his manager at the security company which employs him told him, ‘If you don’t want to do it, you have to leave.’

Another guard, Belinda Panaou told the ABC she was dismissed from her employment with a security contractor after  raising concerns directly with NGV staff that she was being paid below the award flat rate. 

Both guards were hired by the gallery’s security contractor Building Risks International Pty Limited (BRI Security), and then transferred to the sub-contractors, Java Security, and in the case of Panaou, National Security Group (NSG) Australia.

Panaou told the ABC: ‘It was $22.50 [per hour] a flat rate, every day, seven days a week. It didn't matter if I worked Saturday or Sunday.’ She added that the guards who were being paid in cash were favoured with more shifts.

The award minimum for a Level 1 security guard is $19.89 an hour, $29.84 an hour on Saturday and $39.78 an hour for Sunday work.

Following the ABC revelations, ArtsHub spoke to another guard currently work at the NGV who said many of his colleagues were moved between BRI and Java in order to facilitate cash payments.

'Plenty of people working for Java are told to say they are from BRI so they can continue to get cash in hand. They are pretty unhappy about it,' he said.

 Gallery concerned

A spokesperson from the NGV told Arts​Hub: 'The NGV takes these allegations very seriously. As the contract managers, the Department of Treasury and Finance launched an independent investigation. The Department of Treasury and Finance and the NGV have given the security service provider the opportunity to respond to these allegations of breaches of contract as a matter of urgency, after which we will take appropriate action. '​

The auditing firm KPMG has been appointed by the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance to investigate the allegations.  Their report has been transferred to the Fairwork Ombudsman this week.

Firm denies allegations

Both Java Security and BRI have denied the allegations of cash payments and underpayment.

'The allegation B​RI pays its staff off the books is false. BRI does not pay its employees cash.‘(Our) employees are ‘presently paid under a lawfully registered enterprise agreement in Victoria, and all our employees are paid in accordance with that agreement,’ BRI said in a statement.

BRI Security also holds employment contracts with the Australia Council for the Arts, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, La Trobe University and the University of Western Sydney.

United Voices – the union representing security guards - released a statement calling on the Victorian Government to terminate BRI Security’s contract at the NGV.

About the author

To contact the ArtsHub news desk email Keep up-to-date with the latest industry news; be part of the conversation and an engaged arts community by following ArtsHub on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr.