Labour Minister should delay the date of implementation of minimum wage and 40-hour week to facilitate consultations

Dear Editor,

In addition to the views expressed by the Private Sector Commission in the Stabroek News of 19th June, 2013 with which there is absolute concurrence, considerations should also be given to:

1. Private security firms today are fraught with inadequate security personnel in a phenomenally consistent and continuous fashion. A survey or consultations will reveal that these firms, by the very nature of existence and operations, attract overtime hours in great quantum. Even those which promote 8 hour shifts to curtail the accumulation of too many overtime hours, find this extremely difficult in the light of the shortage of staff. This shortage may be attributed to several factors, amongst which are ‘pull’ factors away from the vocation and the incapability of elements who apply for such jobs to satisfy the minimum requirements to perform.

2.  Many firms have 12 hour shifts, and even recent government bids specified such shifts in all cases. The implications of these shifts cannot be escaped when security personnel work 6 days per week vis-à-vis the 40 hours per week declared by the Minister. Even those who attempt the 8-hour shifts are captured by these implications given the impact of shortages which affect them significantly. The results are massive and unavoidable payments in overtime hours. Further, unlike some businesses, the provision of security does not ‘stand-down.’ It prevails for the entire week and on a 24-hour basis in most instances. These are stark realities which must be confronted and considered.

3.  The wage rate for security guards particularly, was increased by 40% in June of 2012. Firms were then forced to seek increases from clients to meet this demand. Some failed to support these requests for varying reasons, others failed to adequately support and some have only responded to these requests earlier this year.  Nevertheless, at the expense of significant decreases in profit margins and with a view to maintaining jobs for their workers, these security providers rose to the occasion which led to security guards receiving wages today which average totals between $50,000-$70,000 each month.

4.  The increase mandated this year reflects another 44% which will, in turn, necessitate once again, approaching clients for assistance to meet this new demand. Failure to attract contributions from clients can lead to closure for some security providers, if not now, in the not too distant future. Negotiations with clients will once again ‒ and moreso now that many of these clients are faced with similar demands upon their budgets ‒ take some degree of time to initiate and finalise.

5. Maybe if followed to the ‘letter’ with the present inevitable overtime available in security firms, the new wage will see security officers earning far more than policemen, soldiers, teachers, nurses, etc, and down the road perhaps, cause a drain from the national security force until this drain itself solves the problem of shortage in the security industry at the expense of the former.

Given all of the above, which affords better appreciation, the Minister of Labour should review his decision and amend the implementation date to afford reasonable time and space to accommodate this new demand on security firms and other businesses. It should be noted that that there has been no disagreement with the new minimum wage thus far. This should be seen as recognition and acknowledgement that the increase is a laudable move by the Minister, for which he must be commended. However, why the rush to implement? Why not invite consultations with security firms to afford a better appreciation before pronouncing on the implementation date definitively.

Yours faithfully,
Christopher Thompson
Director of Operations
Sentinel Security Inc

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