Wagga courthouse comes under fire for freezing working conditions

FREEZING Wagga courthouse staff have been forced to wear scarves, wrap themselves in rugs and bring heaters in from home to cope with an under-performing heating system.

FIELDING COMPLAINTS: PSA manager of member services Kym Ward (left), general secretary Stewart Little and south west regional organiser Michelle Macintosh warm up outside the Wagga courthouse. Picture: Ken Grimson

FIELDING COMPLAINTS: PSA manager of member services Kym Ward (left), general secretary Stewart Little and south west regional organiser Michelle Macintosh warm up outside the Wagga courthouse. Picture: Ken Grimson

The Public Service Association’s (PSA) general secretary, Stewart Little, spoke to members about the big chill while in Wagga on Thursday and called on the government to fix the problem quickly or face an occupational, health and safety dispute.

“It illustrates what happens when you do things on the cheap,” Mr Stewart said, referring to changes made to the original design of the $17 million courthouse upgrade.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice acknowledged there was a problem with the heating.

“Technicians have been on site at Wagga courthouse for the last two days to address concerns about temperature control,” he said.

‘Adjustments have been made to the air conditioning system and a faulty valve has been replaced.

“The work will continue until the system is operating satisfactorily.”

The PSA’s south west region organiser, Michelle Mackintosh, said independent measuring in the courthouse had shown temperatures as low as eight degrees celsius when staff began work of a morning, rising to a maximum of just 13 degrees.

“The staff have been patient, but their patience is slowly running out,” Mrs Macintosh said.

“Why would you expect a public servant to go to work and freeze – it’s unproductive.

“The staff are dedicated, they go in to do their jobs but they are hurting.

“Cold air blows down on staff while they are working.

“It’s come to the pointy end of the stick, we need to get to the bottom of it, and pronto.”

Ms Macintosh said the temperature should be between 21 and 23 degrees.

Mr Little said he understood even members of the judiciary had complained about the cold.

Mr Little said sheriff’s officers who manned a security machine at the public entrance of the courthouse were also exposed to gusty cold winds whenever the glass sliding door opened. “There should have been an air lock built in (as a weather buffer),” Mr Little said.