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Security firms want minimum rates delayed

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, December 23, 2013    

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THE Jamaica Society for Industrial Security (JSIS) wants the Government to delay implementation of new minimum rates for security guards by approximately one month, but it seems very unlikely that the suggestion will be entertained.

"Let's put it this way: The Cabinet has decided on a date and if that is to be changed we would virtually have to go through the whole process again," permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Alvin McIntosh told the Jamaica Observer Friday.

McIntosh said that, despite his position, the ministry would be willing to hear the security companies' grouses, but he has not seen

any request from them for a meeting.

The society is the umbrella organisation for local private security companies.

JSIS president, Commander George Overton, told the Observer earlier Friday that they did not see any problem in the Cabinet delaying the January 6 date for the implementation of the new minimum rates for private security guards.

"The last time they made a mistake, and they deferred the whole thing for a whole two months," Overton pointed out. The JSIS president was referring to the fact that last year the security guards' minimum rates did not take effect until two months after the implementation date because of an error made by the ministry.

The new rates should have taken effect on September 3, but were delayed until November 6 because of what the ministry described as a "transposition error". The error resulted in the guards receiving an 8.46 per cent pay increase, instead of the 10 per cent increase announced by Labour and Social Security Minister Derrick Kellier in July last year.

However, it turned out that because the implementation date cannot be changed after it has been gazetted, some 15,000 private security guards lost more than two months' pay

The memory of what happened last year to the security guards, and which threatens them again this year, has angered president of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union Senator Kavan Gayle, who believes it would be a "travesty of justice" to cause these guards, considered the worst-paid security personnel, to lose more pay this year over something else for which they were not responsible.

"The only way the trade unions could agree to a delay is if the security companies guarantee the guards that they will be paid for the period of the delay, retroactively," Gayle insisted.

But Overton is insisting that some security firms are in danger of closing down, unless the implementation is delayed.

"The concern we have is that we only have 11 working days to conclude the arrangements, and we are going to find that there are a number of companies who are either not going to be able to be compliant for a couple of weeks, until they can conclude the arrangements with their clients, and there are those who are going to have to dip into [their] pockets and carry the differential until they are able to conclude the discussions," he explained.

Overton said that it is his understanding that the National Minimum Wage Advisory Commission, which deliberated and advised the minister of the level of minimum rates increases, had advised the Government to continue the conventional 30-day delay between the announcement in Parliament and the implementation of the increased rates.

He said that the JSIS was "very disappointed" that the companies were only given 11 working days, during the Christmas holiday period, to make arrangements for implementation of the new rates.

"It seems like the minister is trying to give a Christmas present without really understanding the consequences of his statements," he said. However, he admitted that the JSIS was satisfied that the Government has shown "constraint", by limiting the increase to 12 per cent, considering that since last year there has been an 18 per cent devaluation of the Jamaican dollar, and inflation of approximately 18 per cent.

"Where we are disappointed is with the period of notice for the implementation of the new rates," he said.

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