Company denies guard’s claim that deductions are not being paid over
The dream of purchasing his own house pushed security guard Troy Beckford* to toil at least 300 hours a month despite the thousands of dollars of deductions made fortnightly from his salary.
However, Beckford was shocked to learn, during a recent visit to the National Housing Trust (NHT), that his employer had not paid over the deductions to the state entity.
As an employee of Quest Security Services, Beckford has to pay for almost everything he uses while carrying out his job.
In addition to the regular deductions most employees are accustomed to seeing on their pay advice, he pays $800 for his company's closed user group (CUG), $1,500 for accommodations at the company's barrack, at least $800 for telephone tax as well as the cost for utilities. He receives two to three uniforms every year for which a $3,000 deduction is made each month.
When he first started working at Quest a few years ago, he was also required to pay thousands of dollars for training which was deducted from his salary. Then, there are the intermittent deductions for fines which are levelled against security guards for a myriad offences such as not wearing a tie or not being punctual.
"You have to pay them, because they come out of your pay before it reach you," said Beckford who is a contract worker.
Given the company's decision to stop issuing employees printed copies of their payslips, Beckford said he requested a letter last year to take to the NHT, as he sought a loan to purchase a house.
"I went to the NHT because I want a house and when I went there and they asked for a contribution letter from my company, it took almost 16 months to get it and when I got it, I went to the NHT and they tell me that they don't see nothing at all. So, that means I am not eligible," said Beckford.
"I want to know why they are drawing the money and not paying the money?
"You can't join a union as a contract worker, and if you talk up loud, they will fire you and say they can get 100 people by them quint between now and tomorrow," charged Beckford.
But marketing and public relations manager at Quest Security Services, Raglon Wynter, said that all the monies deducted from workers' salaries are paid to the relevant entities.
"We follow a strict guideline. We follow the law and so, once we take out monies for deduction as it relates to NHT or what have you, it's actually clearly shown on their payslip that they can request, and monies are then paid over to the Trust," said Wynter.
"Accordingly, other deductions that come out of the salary will arise based on the expenses incurred," added Wynter.
He said all employees, security and administrative staff, are required to pay for CUG service since it is the platform used by the company to communicate with staff.
"I don't have a choice. Once I am on the roster or once I am employed or contracted to the company, I will then have to pay for the CUG," said Wynter.
"So the officer is then able to communicate with central station at his/her convenience in the furtherance of his/her duty."
Wynter admitted that the security guards have to pay for their training, but was not able to give an exact figure as this is usually determined by their training department.
He further argued that the cost paid by each guard for living at the barrack is small as it is subsidised by the company.
"Sometimes we have officers [and] although they are in Kingston, we still deploy them to Montego Bay and we have a barrack in Montego Bay and in Duncans, Trelawny. There could be one in Portland as well, and basically it's just subsidised housing cost. And the cost is little or nothing and that takes into effect light, water, Internet facilities and other conveniences," said Wynter.
He said the company's decision to stop issuing pay advice was part of its thrust to go green. As such, salary statements are sent to workers' phones.
Quest has more than 1,200 security guards islandwide, and all are on contract.
There has been increasing concern about the conditions under which private security guards in Jamaica are made to work given the heightened competition for clients in a tough economic climate. There are about 328 private security companies in Jamaica employing more than 21,000 security guards.
* Name changed on request.
Beckford's deductions per fortnight
Income tax $0.00
HEALTH INS $1,200