Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
The Regulator of Jamaica's private security industry, the Private Security Regulation Authority (PSRA), has revealed that some companies have been unlawfully deducting more than the annual registration fee from the already meagre wages earned by security guards.
Rosalyn Campbell, executive director of the PSRA, told The Sunday Gleaner that the annual registration fee for an armed guard is $300 per annum and $200 per annum for an unarmed guard. However, investigations carried out by the regulator's officers have revealed that some companies deduct that amount every time the guard is paid.
"What has happened is that you have companies that take that from the security guards every pay period, and most of them get paid fortnightly," Campbell revealed.
She added: "We are vehemently opposed to them taking this money from the security guards. It is a one-time charge. That's the critical thing."
Campbell explained that guilty companies are able to squeeze this money from their employees because they underwrite the registration fee and then deduct it from the guards' wages.
The private security regulation boss also told The Sunday Gleaner that the authority has been calling the companies that are in breach. To date, the PSRA has confirmed that companies have been subjecting their employees to the fraudulent deductions.
"We have visited and audited their books. Nobody has a good explanation for that kind of thing, except that it is a selfish kind of cruelty that is exploiting a set of persons that are already so exploited," Campbell lamented.
"We have had two situations, but two is too many," she added.
She warned that companies involved in this illicit activity might soon be staring down the barrel of stiff penalties if Parliament passes the proposed amendment to the relevant legislation.
"The amendments are coming and the penalties are much more severe. The legislation is 21 years old and the $10,000 fine will be improved. What we have recommended is a series of penalties for various violations and illegal acts, and this is an illegal act," she explained.
"I would call it dishonest and let anything else be proven. They should desist from doing this," Campbell added.
NO PAY SLIPS
A well-placed source with knowledge of labour relations told The Sunday Gleaner that other breaches committed by security companies are going unpunished because they have refuse to give their guards pay slips.
"They pay them in cash and there is nothing to trace. It becomes your word against theirs. This is one of the biggest issues," said the source who requested anonymity.
The source said the Ministry of Labour and Social Security has been using the pay slips to lobby against breaches committed against the guards, and in response, some companies have stopped issuing them.
The source also claimed the labour ministry has taken individual cases involving breaches of the security guards' rights to court, and when mediation is recommended at the ministry, the companies settle with the workers.
"There has been quite a bit of complaints from security guards about vacation, maternity and sick leave," the source said.