News

Gov't error shaves earnings from security personnel

No retroactive payments for guards

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 11, 2012    

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A 'transposition error' in Government's calculation of new minimum rates for private security guards could cost the guards more than $1,000 each before the error is corrected by early next month.

Chief technical director at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Errol Miller confirmed yesterday that the ministry had detected the error in its submission to the Cabinet, which led to the wrong hourly and weekly rates being gazetted. The incorrect rates were implemented by the security firms on September 3, costing the guards just over 1.5 per cent per hour.

Miller expressed the ministry's regret at the development, but explained that a new Cabinet submission had been compiled, and should be approved and implemented by the first week of November. However, he said there is no retroactivity involved with minimum wage increases, something that has angered the trade unions.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 private security guards islandwide started receiving the new minimum rates from their employers on September 3. However, the newly implemented rate is a 8.46 per cent increase, which is nearly 1.5 per cent below the 10 per cent increase announced in Parliament by Minister of Labour and Social Security, Derrick Kellier in the House of Representatives on July 25.

The error was found on one of two pages in the Cabinet submission from the minister, seeking approval of the new rate. One page had $7,320.50 per 40-hour week ($183 per hour), which is the correct figure, while another page had $7,230.50 per 40-hour week ($180.76 per hour) which was the "transposition error".

Cabinet approved the wrong figure ($7,230.50 per week), which was eventually gazetted. The industrial security firms implemented the gazetted figure.

It could not be determined exactly who made the error. Ministry sources said that it could have been a typographical error, which was missed by the Cabinet.

Chairman of the Jamaica Society for Industrial Security (JSIS) and director of operations for the Guardsman Group, Lt Commander George Overton, has confirmed the implementation of the 8.46 per cent increase, but insists that the companies had no choice but to follow the Gazette.

Miller's suggestion that there is no retroactivity involved, has angered both the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the National Workers Union (NWU).

"If an error is made in the calculations, that is not the fault of the guards and they will have to be paid the outstanding sum," NWU president Vincent Morrison, insisted.

"It is unfair to treat the lowest paid workers in the country like this, and we are not going to allow this," said BITU vice-president Wesley Nelson.

Security guards, who normally work a 60-hour week, would have borne about 10 weeks of the reduced pay by November, which would mean a loss of approximately $135 per week, or a total of $1,350 over 10 weeks. Retroactivity would also add up to a tidy sum for the employers, who would have to multiply that by thousands of security guards.

Transposition errors, regarded as simple errors of data entry, occur when two digits that are either individual or part of a larger sequence of numbers are reversed (transposed) when posting a transaction. Although this error is small and unintentional, it can result in huge financial losses to employers in some instances.

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