Gov’t shielding security service – unpaid Berbice guards

Security guards providing services at Government Buildings in Region Five are at a standstill, as their  employer owes them over two months of salary.

The guards believe that the government is shielding the security company, since several calls from the guards for government intervention have gone unanswered.

Yesterday, Region Five Chairman, Vickchand Ramphal attempted to host a meeting in the boardroom of the Region’s Office, with the disgruntled guards. About two minutes into the meeting, the Regional Executive Officer, Ovid Morrison stormed into the boardroom and demanded that the room be vacated, whilst stating that he had a tender board meeting scheduled.

Ramphal, at first objected, explaining to Morrison that he had made all arrangements to have the meeting with the guards in the boardroom since it is large enough to accommodate everyone.

However, Morrison was insistent that he needed the boardroom. Ramphal then complied and encouraged the guards gathered to peacefully return to his office where they held the meeting.

While the guards were exiting the boardroom, APNU+AFC supporters who were present, including, former regional councillor, Carol Joseph, began to insult the guards and questioned why they were there and informed them that “these people won’t help y’ all.”

A junior police rank from the Fort Wellington Police Station arrived on the scene, and Joseph was overheard telling him, “Don’t worry, they come out.”

Joseph claimed that Minister in the Ministry of Social Protection, Keith Scott had met with the security company and had given them up to February 28 to release all payments due to the workers.

Meanwhile, PPP/C Region Five, Member of Parliament, Harry Gill who was also present at the meeting, engaged in an argument with Morrison, who became extremely heated.

However, the guards returned to Ramphal’s office, where they once more voiced their plight.

Katy Fraser, 32, from Number 29 Village, West Coast Berbice, said she is presently sending her two children, one to primary school and the other to nursery school, without any lunches. “When meh son get assignment, meh can’t afford to give him money to go on the internet, he losing marks every day for that,” she lamented.

The woman is extremely concerned with the well-being of her children and is worried that their education will be drastically affected, if her salary is not immediately paid to her.

According to Fraser, the company reportedly let her go last Wednesday, after she and other guards began to complain about the non-payment of wages and threatened to go to the media.

Mohamed Ayube, 69, of Lot 123 Shieldstown, West Coast Berbice noted, that he had received a sum of cash yesterday [Monday], however, he said that was a small portion of what was actually owed to him.

Ayube and others told Stabroek News that the company yesterday released a small amount of money to some security guards within the region.

Another worker, Terry Abrams, complained that the officials were not looking at the relevant issues nor addressing them in a timely manner. However, he continued to encourage his colleagues, noting, “We will have to continue pressing on for ourselves, until we get what we need.”

Dharam Deo, 49, of Number 11 Village, Corentyne said the guards were making sacrifices and working under terrible conditions, and now when it was time to receive their payments, they had to beg the authorities to intervene.

The chairman, in addressing the guards, explained that he will do all in his power to ensure that the monies owed to them is paid. However, he added that the persons who ordered them out of the boardroom should have joined the meeting to assist with dealing the issue. He encouraged the guards to not let the “put out” bring their spirits down, but to remember that other officials were on their side.

However, Gill said, after becoming aware of the issue, he made contact with the Labour Department to have a delegation of affected workers meet with Minister Scott to explain their plight. However, Gill said, his efforts proved futile, as the minister appeared to be avoiding his calls.

Gill noted that eventually he was told that the delegation could meet with a labour officer, who would submit a report to the minister, who would then examine it, “and if it merits his intervention, he will then look at it.”

Gill argued, that the workers are being openly exploited and the minister should act on the matter urgently.

Intense scrutiny

The security company and its ownership have come under intense scrutiny over the last few days.

Stabroek News was told that at least two “more reputable” security companies had entered lower bids to provide security in Regions Five and Six. However, to everyone’s astonishment Integrated Security Services had been awarded the contract.

Meanwhile, workers in both Region Five and Six have claimed that their NIS is not being paid, despite the company deducting amounts every month from their salaries for NIS.

According to information gathered, the company is only paying NIS for a small amount of workers, despite the fact that hundreds of persons are employed with the company in Regions Five and Six.

On 18 February, Integrated Security Services Inc. was included in a list of companies, published by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) in a newspaper advertisement under the caption of ‘Notice of Employers Indebtedness’, who were asked to make immediate contact with the NIS Debt Management Unit.

Meanwhile, this newspaper made calls to four cell phone numbers in order to make contact with the owner of the company yesterday. However, two calls went unanswered, while persons who answered the other two numbers said that he was unavailable. This newspaper also contacted the company’s main office in Georgetown, where a secretary claimed that the owner was not in the office at the time. Several calls were also made to the company’s operations number, where one person said no one in “authority” was available to speak, while another said, that the manager was unavailable.

On Sunday it was reported in some sections of the media that the company had issued a press release admitting to not paying all of its workers. The company reportedly claimed that unverified workers are the ones who were not paid since the company, in the latter part of last year, had taken over from another security company.

The company had further claimed that once the guards provided the necessary documents, payments would be processed and made available.

Guards from Region Six had told Stabroek News last week that documents were allegedly being ducked by the company in order to delay, or not pay some guards. The guards had claimed that they all had delivered their documents since the beginning of the New Year to avoid any issues.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Region Six guards all told Stabroek News that they have since received payments, however, at a rate of $225 per hour, instead of the agreed rate of $255 per hour.

The Region Six guards also stated that their NIS deductions were still not being paid by the company. “I went in NIS yesterday, and them say it nah pay. We still need them to look into these things”, one woman said.

Guards in both Region Five and Six had previously told this publication that the company had threatened to fire them if they spoke with the media.

 

 

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