MINISTER of Labour and Social Security Pearnel Charles Jr says the majority of the 30,000 industrial security guards employed to private security companies in Jamaica are now engaged under an employer/employee contract and are covered by the labour laws.
This coverage, he said, is in relation to the rates of pay, overtime payment, vacation leave, sick leave, maternity leave and all where applicable.
Effective April 1 this year, the status of security guards was upgraded from independent contractors to employees, following a Supreme Court ruling last September. As such, all security guards are now entitled to new employment contracts which guarantee full benefits as employees.
Charles Jr, who was providing an update on the status of the transition during Wednesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, also warned that non-compliant security companies will face the full repercussions of the law, even while noting that since April 1 of this year, most companies have sought to become compliant.
“Recognising that guidance was critical in the transition from the erroneous treatment of the workers of so-called independent contractors, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security conducted sensitisation sessions with employers of security guards to ensure that the companies are compliant within our labour legislations. Having now set the platform to facilitate full compliance, any company found in breach of the requirements of the labour laws will be brought to books using the full extent of the law,” he said.
Charles Jr noted that in respect to complaints received from workers, the ministry has ramped up its inspection and intensified its support to the parish courts for the settlement of outstanding payments due to industrial security guards.
He noted that several workers who disputed the terms and conditions of the new contracts have been engaged by the ministry through its offices islandwide, in respect of settling their claims for outstanding payments and worksheets for payment have been sent to employers on behalf of 100 complainants thus far.
“It is expected that these will be settled shortly. Otherwise, the matters will then be escalated for court action. Notably, we have observed, based on the posture of the Government and the serious approach to this matter, a significant decline in new complaints from security guards since July of this year, which means that the transformation of that sector is occurring before our eyes,” he said.
In the meantime, Charles Jr said the ministry will also continue its dialogue with the Jamaica Society for Industrial Security on Thursday, August 17 “to reaffirm our position as a government on the Joint Industrial Council (JIC) and to increase the momentum for its establishment.”
“We were to have some meetings I believe about two or three weeks ago but due to some exigencies from our other stakeholders, we were not able to meet with them, but we are eager to advance these conversations, and it is our intention that the JIC will comprise representatives of security guards, employers, civil society and key government stakeholders,” he said.
The minister further noted that issues that will be up for discussion include the terms of reference of the JIC and priority issues to be addressed by the council itself. He said a full tripartite meeting will also be held on Wednesday, August 23 for final discussions on the priority issues to be addressed by the JIC.
“It is anticipated that the meetings will result in the consensus on the effective date for commencement of the JIC,” he said.
In April, former Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda had announced that a committee, led by president of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) Helene Davis-Whyte, was appointed to establish the JIC for the regulation of the industrial security sector and protection of the security guards.