Wed | Nov 29, 2023

Samuda: 88 security guards lodge complaints with labour ministry

Minister says 85 per cent ink new employment contracts despite pushback, says

Published:Thursday | April 20, 2023 | 1:22 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter

Labour and Social Security Minister Karl Samuda says 85 per cent of the 25,000 security guards in Jamaica have signed new contracts with their employers in spite of concerns raised about the fresh agreements.

At the same time, Opposition Spokesperson on Labour Dr Angela Brown Burke on Wednesday charged that although many security guards were dissatisfied with the terms of the new contracts, they were forced to sign as they “are living hand-to-mouth and cannot risk losing their jobs”.

Speaking in Gordon House, Samuda urged security guards to lodge complaints or seek guidance from his ministry if they have been denied worker-related benefits or if there are any other breaches of labour standards.

Some security guards have refused to sign the new contracts, claiming that the agreements have denied them benefits under the law.

Samuda revealed that 88 security guards have already lodged formal complaints with the ministry.

In a landmark ruling in September 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that security guards engaged by Marksman Limited are employees and not contract workers, triggering industry-wide shockwaves.

Reiterating the implications of the court ruling yesterday, Samuda said that security guards are now guaranteed vacation leave, sick leave, overtime pay, maternity leave, where applicable, and all minimum standards for decent work in Jamaica.

In a statement to Parliament, Samuda also announced the appointment of a committee led by trade unionist Helene Davis Whyte to establish a joint industrial council for the regulation of the industry and protection of security guards.

For years, the unions have been clamouring for the establishment of the council comprising representatives from the Government, employers, and trade unions.

Responding to Samuda’s remarks, Brown Burke said that the disclosure that 85 per cent of security guards had signed new contracts brought no comfort to her when the rights of many had been breached.

Brown said that she has seen copies of contracts that state that with the signing of the new agreement, the worker has relinquished his rights to pursue any disputes on anything owed before.

“I don’t see how a government could sit down and be comfortable with that,” she added.

Brown Burke warned that the estimated 25,000 security guards and their families are watching to see the next move by the Government.

“They have been left to the mercy of some very rapacious business persons,” said Brown Burke, who later added that not every company was exploiting the workers.

Describing the plight of the security workers as untenable, Brown Burke said the hands-off approach taken by the Government is not appropriate.

She urged the Government, as it signs contracts with security companies on behalf of ministries, departments, and agencies, to look at the details of these agreements “because the rates should be an indication that all is not well”.

She said that smaller companies might be forced out of the sector based on the new arrangements.