Security guards' jobs at stake

An organisation representing security companies says a strike by guards would harm the industry and the workers'' interests.

08 November 2016 | Labour

The threat of a December security guard strike will be a gut punch not only to security service customers, but also to security guards and security companies.

Representatives of the Security Association of Namibia (SAN) say besides the issues of wages and working conditions, other critical issues facing the industry are unregistered operators who abuse workers and the critical issue of finalising industry regulations.

Dries Kannemeyer, SAN president, warned that a strike would have devastating consequences for guards. They won''t be paid for the duration, and customers might invest in alternative security measures.

“A strike could lead to end-users of security services to seriously look at alternatives which could lead to a lot of security guards losing their current employment and joining the ranks of the unemployed, which we believe the country''s economy cannot afford.”

He added that a recent opinion poll found that most customers would be unwilling to pay more for guard services.

Kannemeyer described the demand of a 78% pay increase “astronomical and unacceptable” and said the fallout could make major job losses a reality.

He added that SAN members look after their employees by paying at least the minimum wage, registering them for Social Security and making sure that their duty stations “adhere to minimum requirements where possible”.

The unions were ignoring some of the problems faced by employers, such as guards staying away from work, sleeping on duty, being drunk on duty, and misusing, stealing or damaging customer property, he added.

On Friday SAN representatives met with Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila to discuss the industry''s lack of regulations and a possible way forward.

“Currently the industry is not regulated. Anyone can enter the industry and there are no rules or regulations that anyone has to adhere to,” Kannemeyer said.

He added that labour inspectors don''t enforce minimum wages, while fly-by-night companies exploit their employees and nothing is done by the inspectorate or the unions.

Kannemeyer said the unions focus solely on SAN-affiliated companies and “forget about the hundreds of companies not registered, thereby destroying the image of the industry”.

Kannemeyer further questioned the lack of complaints recorded at the Ministry of Labour by workers alleging dire working conditions at unregistered companies.

Last week SAN chairperson Levi Shigwedha also said that other industries are regulated, but there is nobody regulating the security industry.

He said the majority of issues plaguing the industry are because of companies that are not registered by the Ministry of Trade, “pirate companies that operate from a bedroom. They are the ones who treat their employees badly.”

Shigwedha said SAN encourages security guards to report their working conditions and other issues to the organisation.

“If they report these issues to us, we will address our members. But I don''t think it is happening with our members, who are fully compliant.” He said no complaints had been reported to SAN.

Shigwedha further said that the same rate could not be paid to guards performing different levels of security work.

“The unions do not want to differentiate between a beginner and a long-term employee. They want all on the same entry level, which we believe is unfair,” Kannemeyer added.

He said SAN was negotiating for an entry-level minimum wage, with a proposed 14% increase for new employees and 28% for those who have worked for a year or longer in the industry.

“What the community does not know is that security companies make use of different packages and therefore a big number of employees are already remunerated far above the current minimum wage,” he explained.

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