SkyCity - home to a whole lot of gamblers and more than one or two fleas.

Some workers at Auckland’s SkyCity casino are having to spray themselves with insect repellent and wear flea collars to keep from being bitten on the job.

Unite Union national director Mike Treen said workers had been complaining to SkyCity management, as well as the union, for years.

The carpet around the gaming machines is cleaned regularly, but the problem still seems to persist.

Mike Treen says “We get complaints about it periodically. There’s no recognition that some people are affected more than others,” he said. “They have some sort of cleaning process going on. [But] it doesn’t seem to be working.”

Mike Treen said he knew of a number of workers who attached flea collars to their ankles to stop being bitten and others who sprayed themselves with insect repellant. SkyCity provide cans of insect repellant to any staff who request them.

“Some of them have them on to try and prevent being bitten. Some people react quite badly – [they] get really bad spots and it can affect their health and then result in time off. It’s definitely a health and safety issue.”

The union said part of the ongoing problem was that casino management were unwilling to shut the floor down for a day because they would lose too much money. It’s just about 24-hour, seven-day business,” Mr Treen said.

“They don’t want to close the casino down even for a day.”

The issue was first raised in 2007. At the time SkyCity said a pest management programme was in place to deal with the infestation.

“Most large carpeted buildings that are frequented by the public encounter some degree of an issue with biting insects,” a SkyCity spokeswoman said.

“We have thorough proactive pest control measures in place and are confident that we are providing a safe and healthy facility for our staff and customers.” And fleas?

Comment

It is reasonable for workers to expect to be able to come to work and carry out their duties without being bitten by fleas. SkyCity from previous announcements has identified the flea problem as a hazard and has put in place a pest management programme to minimise the impact of fleas on staff and customers.

From anecdotal evidence provided through the Union, it seems that this programme is not being entirely effective.

With biting insects there is a real preference for some individuals. My wife for example does not get biten, but I am some kind of gourmet delicacy for fleas and mosquitoes.

The Unite Union raises a fair point that it is difficult to effectively treat the fleas when the casino is running 24 hours a day.

Obviously management feel that the hazard is being adequately dealt with. With a tight job market it is easy to brush of compliants from staff of this nature. 

Purely on health and safety grounds, management should take more decisive action. Some staff will suffer reactions to the bites that are uncomfortable and a distraction.

The answer to this problem lies with better communication. The Union needs to collate all the evidence and present a case to managment. It is easy with anecdotal evidence for things to get a bit blown out of proportion with hearsay gaining a momentum of its own.

Management for their part need to directly address the concerns of the workers. There is obvioulsy a breakdown in trust on the part of some of the workers towards management.

It would be smart to include an independent pest control specialist as part of the discussions. They can offer unbiased advice and workers might be more receptive to hear about what is possible and not possible from a non-management individual.