Sun | Jun 20, 2021

Securing security guards

Published:Thursday | March 22, 2012 | 12:00 AM

ON SATURDAY last, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Allied Protection Limited, some 30 employees, including Janet Gordon, Michael Webster, Owen Greenwood, Skeen Orthland, Adrian Bernard (posthumous), Basil Betty, Lloyd Folkes, Ralston Taylor, Loriston Waller and Rudolph Davis, who served the company for periods from 25 to 30 years, were recognised for long and commendable service.

In addition, Donald Williams, who co-founded the company with his wife Gloria, gave an overview of the security industry from the time of National Hero Sir Alexander Bustamante, as well as a review of the company's history. And the sting of his remarks was in his closing comments on behalf of the welfare of private security guards.

Unsatisfactory working conditions

Donald Williams is an elder statesman of the private security industry. He is a former army man and a member of the Baptist Church. He was the first Jamaican to be awarded the designation of certified protection professional by the American Society for Industrial Security. He is not a newcomer to agitating on behalf of security guards. In fact, when the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller was minister of labour, he was integral in ensuring that security guards paid taxes and made other statutory payments, such as NIS and NHT, so that they could look forward to receiving a pension and benefit from housing possibilities. However, these gains are now being eroded by some owners within the private security industry, including well-established ones. This statement is based on a recent survey done by Williams.

According to Williams' survey of some security guards, he discovered that some security guards are being paid below the minimum wage. He also uncovered that some were being denied laundry and firearm allowance, sick and vacation leave. He spoke passionately about the injustice being experienced by some guards. There are some owners who use the excuse of making guards contract workers wherein the guards have to pay rental fees to use batons and whistles. This is an unacceptable state of affairs and, in fact, an industrial lawyer states that it is illegal to classify security guards as contract workers and deny them the benefits on those grounds.

It is well known that, generally, security guards are overworked and underpaid. They work long hours, sometimes without recourse to normal amenities and, at times, exposed to the elements.

They risk their lives and engage in manual work and menial tasks for the protection of life and property and they deserve a reasonable or livable wage.

Long hours counterproductive

At the same function, the guest speaker, Peter Bunting, minister of national security, in endorsing the statement before an audience that included former mayor, Desmond McKenzie, gave a reminder that 'long hours' for security guards is counterproductive. And he is correct.

This was illustrated when one compares Greece with Germany. Greeks work for an average of 2,017 hours per year - more than any other European country - and take two weeks of vacation per year, while the Germans toil for 1,408 hours per year and take six weeks' vacation. Yet, Greece is having serious problems with its economy while Germany's economy is the strongest in Europe. And the productivity of Germans is much higher than that of the Greeks. Germany is the eighth most productive country in Europe, while Greece is 24th. It could, therefore, be argued that shorter hours of work with appropriate leave would likely increase productivity. Perhaps allowing guards to work fewer than 12 hours a day would make them more alert and, with a more reasonable wage, would become more productivity.

It is, therefore, now up to the minister of labour and investigative journalists to confront those owners who are exploiting the security guards and to advocate for securing a secure future for security guards.

Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church. Send comments to columns@gleanerjm.com