Morrison rubbishes Gov’t’s stance on security industry impasse
It has been almost two weeks since some security guards have been turned away from their jobs despite having active contracts with private firms after they refused to sign what they describe as “exploitative” new agreements.
The new contracts are being issued to allow for a reclassification exercise in the industry more than six months after a landmark ruling that the guards should be treated as employees and not independent contractors.
One guard, who has been working with a company for almost 30 years, told The Gleaner that he has not worked since last Tuesday, when he and other colleagues who failed to agree to new terms were turned away when they reported for duty.
He told The Gleaner that it has been a maddening experience.
“It’s really frustrating not working now. I am not used to sitting at home doing nothing. I really don’t know what they are doing, but I hope they will do something soon,” the father of three said.
He explained that the lack of income has placed additional stress on him as he is now unsure how his bills will be paid.
Despite this, he remains adamant that he will not sign a contract with his company, which he says has put a one-year contract with three months probation on the table despite his years of service.
Addressing journalists at a post-Cabinet press briefing on Wednesday, de facto Information Minister Robert Nesta Morgan advised the aggrieved security guards to seek restitution through the Ministry of Labour or the courts.
“We’re a country of laws, and while the Government has a duty to protect its citizens and to ensure [the rights of] all, … the citizens also have a duty to protect their own rights,” he said.
Morgan reiterated statements Labour Minister Karl Samuda made in a Gleaner interview last week that the Government is unable to intervene without the formal channels being tapped as this dispute is a private matter between a company and its employees.
Ministry’s duty and responsibility
But Vincent Morrison, president of the Union of Clerical, Administrative and Supervisory Employees, rubbished the assertion as “nonsense”.
“Where there is no union, the ministry has the right – and it’s the ministry’s duty and responsibility – to intervene,” he told The Gleaner.
Lamenting that dozens of security guards were currently not working based on orders by their contracted companies, Morrison explained that they would be entitled to redundancy payment if they are not called back to work within 120 days as per Sections 5 and 11 of the Employment Termination and Redundancy Payment Act.
“I am anticipating that good sense will prevail and that the companies will not continue to abide by very poor legal advice, that they will sit down with the union, and let us work through an arrangement that can satisfy both sides,” Morrison said.
The trade unionist said that he still intends to take the matter to the courts.
Meanwhile, Morgan revealed that a security contract to the tune of $210 million has been awarded to King Alarm Services Limited to provide security services to The University of Technology, Jamaica. He asserted that the security firm would have met the criteria as outlined under the Government’s new policy for the operation of security companies.
“The Government has made a policy decision, and the Ministry of Finance has articulated that any company that does not acquiesce to the changes in the situation will not be engaged by the Government. So one would expect that in the process of engaging these companies that due diligence would be done to ensure they acquiesce with the court ruling,” Morgan said.