Sun | Nov 29, 2020

Mass recruitment - Security firm to hire ­additional staff to comply with overtime law

Published:Thursday | June 6, 2019 | 12:14 AM

HASTENED BY calls from members of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament to ­withhold payments and, ultimately, prosecution of private security companies not adhering to, among other issues, time-and-a-half rate for overtime and double-time rate for work beyond 40 hours, at least one firm has embarked on a mass recruitment of additional personnel to avoid any legal problems.

Anthony, operator of a Corporate Area-based security firm, said his company, among many ­others, traditionally operates on a 60-hour workweek, at the minimum-wage rate. However, this practice has come under scrutiny lately.

Reports emerging out of the PAAC indicate that of the nearly three dozen private security firms contracted by government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) “22 companies were not paying the time-and-a-half rate for overtime and 13 companies were not paying the double-time rate”.

NO OPTION

With MDAs among its clientèle, Anthony said his firm has no option but to conform and has turned to recruiting and training additional guards to fill the extra hours, amid disquiet from his most experienced workers, who said they are prepared to quit should their bumped-up-by-hours salaries be slashed to accommodate newcomers.

“From the outside, looking in, the casual observer will ask, ‘why don’t the firms pay overtime and double-time rate to keep the workers’?” Anthony remarked. “What they don’t know is that the firms can’t afford to pay time-and-a-half because the government contracts, that make up 40 per cent of the market, won’t pay the companies a dime more for us to even consider time-and-a-half, more so double-time.”

In hiring additional personnel and paying the stipulated rate, the prescribed minimum wage of $242.50 per hour, Anthony said he will make his firm compliant but will be faced with angry guards, complaining that they can’t survive on a 40-hour workweek.

“Many guards carry home almost $100,000 a month if they are using guns or canine but, if the companies move to a 40-hour workweek, at full compliance it will be less than $13,380 weekly, for even the armed guards, and that is before emoluments and drawings,” he pointed out.

“I believe the politicians have not really taken the time to understand the industry. If they did, they would have realised they are putting the guards right back to being watchmen if they continue down this path.

“I have tried to have discussions with clients to see whether an increase in rates could be facilitated to meet the time-and-a-half but that was flatly rejected,” Anthony pointed out.

“If our leaders had spent the time to research the industry, maybe the guards could have continued earning like people in everyday offices, who work similar hours but see it as part of work, but thanks to the politicians, the guards will go back to earning just 50 per cent more than a minimum-wage cook.”

Meanwhile, faced with workers, some of whom, he said, claim politicians are seeking to gain mileage at their expense, having had nothing to say when in government, Anthony said he had no comment on that issue and wants to “stay far from the politics”, but pointed out that the hardest-hit will be unarmed guards, who are easily recruited and are trained in-house.