Two security companies accused of underpaying guards

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PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Society for Industrial Security (JSIS) George Overton has written to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament, asking it to intervene, on its behalf, in what it claims is the shortchanging of security guards employed to two companies which have Government contracts.

According to the letter, read by chairman of the PAAC Dr Wykeham McNeill at Tuesday’s meeting at Gordon House, the organisation is claiming that security guards assigned to at least two companies contracted to the Government are being deprived of $8,096 per fortnight or just over $210,400 per year.

The association has accused the Government entities of failing to ensure that the security companies they do business with are compliant with the national minimum wage for security officers.

“It is of even greater concern that despite furnishing the pertinent information to the Ministry of Labour there has been no intervention much less an acknowledgement,” the association’s head stated.

He noted that the laundry allowance of $44 per hour should be paid for every hour worked, but that one of the companies capped that allowance at 80 hours per fortnight. “This means that the officers are being shortchanged an average of $2,816 per fortnight or $73,216 per annum. This action has cheated the guards out of a significant sum of money and has given the offending company significant pricing advantage in a very competitive market,” the JSIS complained.

In the case of the second security company, it is claimed that no laundry allowance is paid, causing security officers to lose $5,280 fortnightly or $137,280 per annum. “The Government not exercising proper analysis of rates and ensuring compliance is a dereliction of responsibility,” Overton charged.

“It seems amazing to me to hear that it could be possible that over $70,000 a year could be withheld from a security guard’s pay. It’s totally inappropriate, as far as I’m concerned. We cannot be making laws to protect the workers and then we are complicit in our contractual arrangements, if they (security companies) are in fact in breach of these laws that we have created,” the committee chairman remarked.

The committee has agreed to ask the Ministry of Labour to conduct an analysis of all security companies which have contracts with the Government to determine whether these breaches are occurring and if found to be factual, state how the issue will be addressed. A report is to be submitted to the committee in two weeks, at which time a decision will be made as to whether that ministry along with the finance ministry, as well as the security companies named by the association, should appear in order to clarify the issues.

St Catherine North East Member of Parliament Leslie Campbell suggested that the principals of the said companies be invited to answer questions. “Perhaps we ought to craft something a little wider so that we could properly launch an investigation into the industrial relations practices. We could [also] subpoena the principals of the two offending entities to find out if they are in compliance,” he said.

– Alphea Saunders

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