Sun | Nov 19, 2017

JaRistotle’s Jottings | Securing our security industry

Published:Thursday | November 9, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Last week, I ran into a friend of mine who operates a security company. He was facing difficulties in renewing his company's licence with the regulatory agency, the Private Security Regulation Authority (PSRA). He explained that he was being railroaded into having his guards medically insured, even though the law doesn't require this, and the PSRA was withholding his licence because not all his guards were insured.

The private security industry is governed by the PSRA Act which stipulates age, training and vetting and corporate requirements for obtaining licences without which companies and individuals should not operate. The act does not make provisions for quality control of companies or guards, but seems biased towards revenue generation.

In visiting the PSRA website, it lists dozens of registered security guard companies, but I did not find anything directly speaking to mechanisms for monitoring the treatment of guards with respect to insurance, medical, pay or uniforms. I was greeted with a message regarding a new requirement for guards to have medical insurance; however, nothing seems to have been enacted into law on the matter.

According to my friend, things like the minimum wage are governed by legislation, which includes coverage of guards under group life and personal accident insurance schemes which the companies should pay for. There is no legislation concerning medical insurance, and although the PSRA had negotiated a scheme with a private insurance entity which is available to guards on a voluntary basis, the guards are largely not interested. The PSRA apparently wants the security companies to pay for the guards or risk being denied the licences to operate.

I have no issues with security guards being covered under appropriate insurance schemes, but the process of consultation and legislation is important, especially where there are cost implications.

 

POOR REGULATION OF INDUSTRY

 

Private security is a multibillion-dollar industry, and with more than 20,000 guards in the industry, their administration and welfare are unquestionably important. I will not pretend to understand all the nuances of this industry, but speaking from a distance, I believe the regulation of the industry is poor.

How can the regulators of the industry have little or no audit mechanisms in place to ensure that companies are adhering to prescribed standards? While training requirements are stipulated, no mechanisms exist to assess the quality of training being conducted by licensed 'security trainers', and so standards of proficiency vary from the barely proficient to the extremely competent.

My friend related cases of some companies that rent uniforms to guards at exorbitant fees, who underpay the guards and fail to provide them with pay advice slips, and generally treat their guards like cattle. These companies then undercut others when bidding for contracts simply because they can afford to, given their minimal overhead costs. According to him, the PSRA has stated that these issues are not under their jurisdiction, but are for the Ministry of Labour to address. Conclusion: those who play by the rules get shafted!

If you are the legislated regulator for an industry, then be the regulator, and put mechanisms in place for cross-ministry and intra-agency cooperation. Non-compliant and extortive security companies must be shut down, especially for the sake of the poor guards who they hold to ransom.

The flip side to this is that if there are additional financial burdens placed on the security companies in an attempt to increase the guards' benefits, then the cost of security services will increase significantly, perhaps by as much as 40 per cent. Customers will resist paying these increased costs, and many guards will inevitably be out of jobs.

 

A CHANCE TO IMPROVE

 

While security guards have to be licensed, related security services such as electronic security, bouncers at entertainment facilities and security camera/TV operators do not have to meet similar requirements. Are these people not providing security services? In the UK, the equivalent agency to the PSRA requires that they be properly trained, certified and licensed.

Here is an opportunity for the PSRA to broaden their revenue base and simultaneously enhance the quality of security services and the industry in general. The PSRA should also seek out and prosecute those who employ unlicensed watchmen to provide security services in contravention of the law.

The regulation of the industry clearly leaves much to be desired. Time to walk the talk, PSRA, but do so in a consultative manner.