Tuesday 16 July, 2019

Security companies to be prosecuted for inadequate guard payments

Shahine Robinson

Shahine Robinson

A zero-tolerance approach being adopted by the Ministry of Labour could see the first five of dozens of security companies that have for years been reportedly underpaying guards being hauled before the courts and prosecuted.

Underpayment is among a litany of other workplace breaches.

“The ministry has been monitoring the situation concerning the status and entitlements of security guards,” said Shahine Robinson, the Minister of Labour and Social Security, as she addressed the vexed issue in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

“The ministry is moving to prosecute companies which are in breach of the labour laws. Since June of this year, five companies have been referred to the ministry’s legal division for prosecution. It is our intention that all companies flouting the law will eventually be held accountable,” Robinson remarked during her contribution to the 2019-2020 Sectoral Debate.

She said the ministry “is sending a warning to all security companies that if you breach the law, you will face the consequences.”

Robinson noted that over the years, the ministry has received complaints of security companies failing to pay various entitlements that are due to their employees.

“In response to these complaints, the ministry seeks to arrive at a settlement between security guards and the companies.  Where there is no settlement, those cases are referred to the courts,” she said.

“In the majority of cases, the decisions have been in favour of the security guards,” the labour minister told the House. Nonetheless, she said the overall issue will be placed before a joint select committee of Parliament.

“This will allow the issues affecting security guards to be ventilated and deliberated through open and transparent public discourse."

Meanwhile, in a bid to prevent an escalation of the breaches, the ministry has been collaborating with the Private Security Regulation Authority to ensure that companies observe the labour laws and standards for decent work.

Robinson did not name the five companies that have been referred for prosecution by the Labour Ministry’s legal department. However, the five companies are believed to be among the nearly three dozen companies that Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee was told back in April owed security guards millions of dollars for various breaches.

The committee was told that a survey that was conducted by the ministry had found that more than 30 private security firms contracted by the Government were paying their employees below the minimum wage.

The survey also found that guards were not being paid maternity, vacation and sick leave. Additionally, many companies were not paying the time-and-a-half rate for overtime; some did not pay for double time, while others refused to pay laundry allowances.

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