Guards working in Berbice for Home Safety Security Service are complaining about being exploited but a senior company official has said that the claims were not relayed to management.
Employees attached to the company’s Berbice division, who asked not to be named, said that even though they have been working overtime and for over two years, they are not being paid for the extra hours. Some also said they have not been allowed an annual leave.
One woman, who has worked for the company for just over two years, told Stabroek News that she is still waiting on the money for her overtime work since November. She also said that even though National Insurance Scheme (NIS) contributions are deducted from the workers’ monthly salaries, the Scheme has informed her and her colleagues that no payments have been made in their names.
According to her, when their payment is sent to Berbice, it is often less than they are supposed to receive but when this is brought to the attention of the supervisor for the branch, identified only as “Mr. Ross,” they are told that they received what was sent and that he cannot do anything about it.
She explained that the employees from the Berbice division are currently unaware of exactly who they are working for and so they have no idea who to complain to. The woman said that Ross claims to have no knowledge regarding the owner of the company and all of their complaints fall on deaf ears. She related that even though the employees were told that the company is currently overstaffed, this is not in fact the reality and often times the guards in Berbice are forced to work alone, which is very dangerous.
According to the guard, the situation has gotten worse after November, when the company changed ownership.
But Marissa Johnson, Finance Manager for the company, told Stabroek News that the company has never changed ownership and that the claims being made, to the best of her knowledge, are not factual. “I didn’t know we had all of these issues over there,” she said, referring to the complaints stemming from the Berbice branch.
According to Johnson, the company is operating within the confines of a government contract and the guards are distributed accordingly. She said that if guards are relocated during the night, it is part of the job. Johnson said she was never given the impression that the staff members were uncomfortable or felt that they were in danger. She, however, admitted that it is Ross’s responsibility to relay these concerns because the company is large and employs a number of people in the district and the head office cannot keep track of all of the occurrences.
Johnson said that the company does not pay overtime and explained that the employees’ working hours conform to the government protocol—40 hours per five-day week. However, Johnson contradicted this statement when she later said that sometimes an employee’s overtime does not make it on to the company’s roster and only those names which appear on the list are paid extra.
She also asserted that the company does submit the NIS payments, but it is her understanding that while the records at the NIS office in Georgetown is updated regularly, the records at the others are not and, as a result, it appears as though payments were not made.
Johnson also rejected the notion that the employees were not aware of who the employer is, however, she refused to identify the individual, claiming that it was not relevant.