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BITU, NWU oppose delaying minimum rates for guards

Balford Henry

Sunday, January 05, 2014    

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THE two major trade unions — the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the National Workers Union (NWU) - both support the intention of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) to proceed with implementing new minimum rates for security guards Monday, despite the objections of the private security companies.

BITU President, Senator Kavan Gayle, believes that the Government should take steps to ensure that the increased rates are paid to the security guards as ordered and gazetted for Monday, January 6.

"If they refuse, it is a breach of the law and the ministry (of labour) should take steps to ensure that the provisions of the law are observed," he said. "They can't flaunt the law, and we will be watching to see how the Government handles it".

The Minimum Wage Act carries a penalty of $100,000 for each breach of the minimum wage order.

NWU president Vincent Morrison said that the unions are not only concerned about breaching the minimum wage regulations but also, what he insists is, the rights of the security guards.

"This is going to be one of the key issues for the unions in 2014, and we will working together to improve the conditions of employment of the security guards," he said.

Morrison said that there is no merit to the security companies' argument that they need time, as they were aware of the issue from the time the National Minimum Wage Advisory Commission (NMWAC) started its consultations in September.

"They knew from then that there were going to be adjustments to the rates," he said.

Morrison said that his union believes that the rates should be increased every year, instead of every two years; as it is important in helping the guards to keep up with inflation.

He said that this year, the unions would be insisting that the ministry also review the working conditions of the guards.

"How can people work with a company for 20 years without a vacation, no sick leave no maternity leave? We will be calling on the minister to lead the way in dealing with these issues," he said.

According to President of the Jamaica Society for Industrial Security (JSIS), Commander George Overton, implementation of the new rates less than three weeks after the announcement in Parliament by Minister of labour and social security, Derrick Kellier, did not give some security companies time to negotiate funding.

Overton said that it was his understanding that the NMWAC, which deliberated and advised the minister of the level of increases, advised the Government to continue the conventional 30-day delay between the announcement and the implementation, but this was not heeded.

He said that the JSIS was "very disappointed" that the companies had been given only 11 working days to make arrangements for implementation of the new rates during the Christmas season.

He said that the companies were willing to accept the $600 per week increase, but needed time to make the necessary adjustments.

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