Gary Spalding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Labour Minister Pearnel Charles has expressed a willingness to meet as early as this week with trade-union leaders to revive talks on the proposal to establish a joint industrial council (JIC) for security guards.
"I am satisfied that the security guards should be represented through the established unions or a joint industrial council," said Charles, a trade unionist by profession.
However, the proposal to establish such an organisation has failed to get off the ground after nearly two decades of talk about the condition under which security guards are forced to wok.
For years, concerns have been raised among security guards and others about the security industry in Jamaica.
Security companies are accused of neglecting them paying wages among the lowest in Jamaica in spite of the risks involved in the job.
Charles had previously proposed the re-establishment of a JIC for the security guards to deal with improvements in their pay and working conditions.
A JIC for the industry existed up to the 1980s. It comprised both trade union and employer representatives who set pay and working condition standards for the industry.
In November 2010, the BITU passed a resolution at the assembly urging Charles to proceed immediately with the proposal to re-establish a JIC for the security industry, but to date nothing has been forthcoming.
Vincent Morrison, president and island supervisor of the National Workers' Union, raised the matter this week after he failed to receive a response from Charles to a letter he sent to the minister in July of this year.
"We need not beleaguer you with the terrible conditions under which security guards are employed throughout the country," stated Morrison. "However, we are disappointed and concerned that in spite of all our efforts, nothing has been done to address the plight of these workers."
Said Charles: "I have also discussed the matter with my colleagues and has alerted the security companies that the union wishes to engage them once again in the discussion about the establishment of a JIC."
Discussions under way
Charles told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday that he has been holding discussions with some of the leaders within the local security-guard industry and they, too, have expressed a willingness to be duly represented.
In his letter to Charles, Morrison referred to several discussions involving the minister, union representatives from the NWU, Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the United Union of Jamaica (UUJ).
"We are therefore using this medium to request a meeting with you to discuss, inter alia, the re-establishment of a JIC for the security-guard industry," said Morrison.
He called on Charles to meet with Wesley Nelson of the BITU and James Francis of the UUJ to resume efforts to have proper and responsible trade-union representation for the over 15,000 security personnel engaged throughout the country.