Security guard struggles to get by on meagre wages as employer ignores labour laws

“Only the pillow can tell how many tears I shed. It has not been easy you know but I would not give up and even though they pay late and the money is small I bless God for it. When the day come I don’t have to send my daughter begging.”

Those were the words of a 42-year-old single woman employed as a security guard at a company that frequently pays its workers one month late. On any given month, she does not make more than $35,000, and uses that to take care of herself and her teenage daughter.

She approached this newspaper to complain about late salary and the fact that the company no longer wants to pay its workers when they proceed on their one week vacation.

“I don’t want me name go but I want to leh people understand how difficult it is fuh people like me, especially single mothers who ain’t really have no education,” she said in a sorrowful tone.

“I don’t have rent to pay and I thank God for that, but many of me colleagues have rent to pay. We got light bill; some of we have Courts to pay and when them pay you late it just get worse for us but like nobody don’t care,” the mother of one said.

“But you know, I still have a job. If you are a single mother you are like a drowning rat that will grab at anything. Security guards most times are not qualified people but we still have a work to do. Is not everybody could become nurses and doctors, but we just want them to treat us fair, that is all we want.

“A lot of us who working is single mothers and many get more than one child. I been working here for seven years and is me and me child I have to mind.”

I asked her whether the father of the child assists her.

“Girl, I don’t even know where in the world he deh,” she said flatly.

“No! Is not like that is not like I don’t know who is she father…,” she said quickly as if to prevent me thinking that.

She was wrong. My thoughts were about the long list of men who turn their backs on their children, leaving sole responsibility on the mothers.

“We been marry you know. I was marry to her father and we just had that one child and life was not easy but at least she had mommy and daddy. And one day he just walk out, you know. He had outside lady and he just leave and never look back. We don’t know where he is. We don’t hear from he. Nothing,” she continued.

“She was just nine then and today she is 16 and he never do nothing for her all dem years, is seven years now.

“So when he lef I had to find a job because I never use to work he use to mine us and that was a big problem. I would say to any woman don’t ever depend on a man because it not easy. Even if is lil bit money yuh working for, is you money. When you gat to depend on a man fuh everything God help you,” she said.

“Is when he lef I get this job and I working up to now. It is not all bad, a mean the pay lil and dem does pay late, but I don’t work no night shift. I does work from seven to three and so when me daughter come home in the afternoon I home. If I had to wuk nights then I woulda have to leave me lil girl child alone and you know with everything that happening you can’t risk to leave you girl child home alone especially in de night.”

She stopped speaking. I could not see her since we were having a telephone conversation but I sensed she was crying or close to tears by the way she was breathing.

“But oh my dear, if God could only come down and tell you how it is, it is very rough,” she said haltingly.

“Right now, from last year, these people not paying you for your leave. They giving us one week leave a year and not paying you. And because last year dem didn’t pay us people decide not to take dem leave but now dem forcing you to take leave. They bringing de paper and you have to say when you going on leave. One week pay is a lot for many of we. How we could survive without it?

“Many days me and me daughter don’t even know wah milk taste like because I have to focus on deh main things and at least ensure we have something to eat every day.

“I don’t have to pay transportation to go to work because a does ride me bicycle so I saving in on that.

“And I thank God that I was able to send she to school every day. She just write eight subjects at CXC and waiting fuh she results and she done to tell me she want go back and do sixth form but I don’t know if I could afford it, that is two more years but she does try and I want she to get the opportunity,” the mother said.

And even though she has had a difficult marriage the mother of one still hopes to find love one day as she does not believe in common-law relationships.

“I trust that God will make a way for me, I am single, real single. I trust that God will send me a husband that I can make life and live a happy life. Being a single parent and living alone is not a nice thing, sometimes you need to d0 simple things. I don’t know if you know what I mean and I don’t know if you marry but I wouldn’t wish this situation on anyone,” she said.

I did not ask but I concluded that the ‘simple things’ she referred to might be her sexual urges, apart from the financial difficulties she faces as a single mother.

“Money can’t repair depression and oppression,” she said after another long pause.

I asked if she was divorced and she responded in the negative and I followed up with the question as to whether she would accept her husband if he returned.

“He would really have to change. You know he was unfaithful and not very supportive and one day he just walked out. But if he comes back with a better lifestyle it is possible we can have a chance. But if he does not have any changes I prefer being alone.

“And what I know is that I would never leave my job for nobody, I don’t care who come or how much money they got, I not leaving me job I always want work to be independent.

“I told my daughter when she get big don’t sit and depend on a man, no matter what, find yourself a job.

“Girl let me tell you something there are so many things you have to face with in this life, that is the reason why we have to hold on to God. That is my comfort and I go to church because some days you don’t know how you make it but only God.”

There have been many complaints over the years involving this same security company and the dire circumstances under which its staff are forced to work. I will be approaching the Labour Department of the Ministry of Social Security, but since the single mother has asked that her name not be used so I will ask that an investigation be launched; the company has a government contract.

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