The head of Jamaica's Private Security Regulation Authority (PSRA) is calling the Government to arms in a bid to defend the rights of abused security guards who are seemingly working in the country as second-class employees.
In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Rosalyn Campbell, executive director of the PSRA, waded into the debate over whether security guards should be treated as contract workers or employees.
The PSRA boss said the security guards are employees, too, and should be treated as such.
"This is a non-partisan issue. This is the last set of workers that require protection and help from the State," said Campbell.
"It is an unsettling matter. The labour ministry is of the view that these are employees, and most security companies treat them as contractors, and as a result they are denied basic benefits like medical and vacation leave," she added.
Campbell said the situation was of concern to the authority although "terms and conditions of pay doesn't fall within the remit of the PSRA".
She opined: "We are very concerned about it because it is something that is disturbing."
While most companies that employ security guards treat them as contractors, Campbell said there are companies in the industry that are doing a good job of treating security guards fairly.
"There are exceptions as there are companies that give these benefits," she said.
As it now stands, the PSRA boss said the authority was unable to intervene and end the unfair treatment of security guards.
"We are toothless. The only way to change that, it needs to be in the legislation to bring it under our purview so we can act, but right now we don't have the jurisdiction, it is a labour matter," Campbell explained.
The PSRA head urged the powers that be to carefully examine what currently obtains in the industry and craft an equitable fix.
"It is a tough business but, dear God, we need to treat the security guards better. We need to look at the industry and come up with clear guidelines and acceptable standard work hours.
"If it is a 12-hour work day, it can't be for five or six days per week. Most guards have to work at least 60 to 80 hours per week to make decent pay," Campbell lamented.
THINGS SLOWLY CHANGING
A well-placed source close to the labour relations between security guards and their employers told The Sunday Gleaner, on condition of anonymity, that things are slowly changing in the private security industry.
"Some of the major companies who started out with this are trying to comply now," the source said.
In October last year, government senator Lambert Brown urged fellow legislators to close the loopholes in the various laws which allow employers to 'exploit' workers by way of issuing them short-term contracts.
Brown, who was debating a motion he moved on the Employment Termination and Redundancy Act, also said the proliferation of short-term contracts was taking the country back to the days of slavery.
The senator told legislators that security guards and workers in the hotel sector were at the mercy of employers as they work for years, and for long hours and are only considered contractors. He then called for the Government to move urgently to review the definition of a worker and take the necessary steps to urgently standardise labour-related legislation.
At that time, another government senator, Angela Brown Burke, suggested that the procurement rule be amended to make it a require-ment that industrial relations practices be considered in the award of government contracts.
According to Brown Burke, successive governments have abetted companies and individuals in the practice of worker abuse.