There is a popular line from Jamaican reggae artiste Jahdore’s single “Security Work” that aptly describes the struggles faced by security guards in Jamaica. It says, “Security wuk out fi kill me, but true di woman a mi yard, mi mortgage and mi four pickney, mek mi nuh lef dis work yet”. Listen to the song closely and you’ll learn even more about a security guard’s reality.
The plight of Jamaican security workers is real. Some changes have been made over the past year to address their concerns and these changes pave the way for business opportunities in Jamaica’s security sector. Additional business opportunities in the security industry that can benefit Jamaican society are also available through the introduction of the Jamaica Eye. This article discusses these business opportunities from both the perspective of security companies and businesses that can support efficient use of the Jamaica Eye.
The Security Guard Dilemma in Jamaica
Security guards risk their lives daily to protect businesses without having much to protect themselves. High value isn’t placed on the work that they do by some private security companies and it shows in their pay. Evidence of this is demonstrated in the results of a probe into the operations of 30 government contracted security companies conducted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security which revealed that security guards were:
- Being paid below the minimum wage
- Not paid the time-and-a-half rate for overtime
- Not paid the double time rate.
- Not receiving their laundry allowance.
- Not receiving their firearm allowance.
- Not receiving their K-9 allowance.
- Not receiving paid lunchtime
I have spoken with employees of a major security company who were able to shed some light on the matter. They stated they are not being paid adequately for the hours worked. In addition, overtime payment is little to none. The Ministry has been on watch, monitoring the concerns regarding the security guards’ entitlements from these companies. Also, through partnering with the Private Security Regulation Authority, the Ministry seeks to ensure that security companies abide by labour laws and standards of decent work.
Actions have been taken to address these gross injustices. The Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson, indicated that the Ministry would prosecute security companies that have breached labour laws following the results of the probe. This resulted in five companies being referred to the Ministry’s Legal Division for prosecution. Investigations are ongoing to hold even more security companies accountable.
The Minister then took things a step further by increasing the general minimum wage by 12.9 percent which means that security guards, at the bare minimum, should receive at least $7,000 per 40 hour week. Can you believe that some security guards were earning below the previous $6,200 minimum wage? Special provisions were also made for security guards in this new minimum wage package. The minimum wage for security guards moved from $8,854 to $9,700 per 40 hour week and security guards also received the following benefits:
- Laundry allowance for industrial security guards will increase from $40.30 per hour to $44.00 per hour
- Firearm premium allowance will move from $44.30 to $48.00 per hour
- Dog handlers’ premium allowance will increase from $29.80 to $33 per hour
- Life insurance coverage payable to security guards injured (or to their beneficiaries in the case of death) in the line of duty will increase from $2.5 million double indemnity to $2.75 million double indemnity
The Shortcomings of Private Security Companies Create Business Opportunities
Government intervention has resulted in a paradigm shift in laws regulating the treatment of security guards. New rules will force old players in the security industry to shape up or ship out. Some company contractors have already dissolved, leaving a large void in the security business. This presents a good opportunity for newcomers.
Unfortunately, wanton neglect of labour laws isn’t the only reason some security companies fail. High levels of crime make it challenging for these companies to survive. In fact, although there has been a spike in new private security companies over the past years, several of the new companies formed quickly dissolve. Vinay Walia, co-managing director of the Guardsman Group, estimates that about 50 to 60 new companies are formed each year and a similar number or fewer also leave the industry.
Anyone considering creating a private security company in Jamaica should be mindful of these challenges and implement these strategies to have a fighting chance at success:
- Be strategic in your approach to handling crime and train security workers accordingly. Security jobs are more than just sitting at a security post counting down the hours until the end of a shift; people’s lives are at stake.
- Understand the labour laws and exceed employees’ expectations by offering far more than the bare minimum required. Happy employees become loyal employees and are better able to effectively carry out their duties.
- Start small instead of trying to expand too rapidly.
The Jamaica Eye: The Future of Jamaican Security
The Jamaica Eye project consists of an islandwide network of CCTV camera surveillance systems developed to promote safety of citizens. These cameras monitor public spaces across the island to help authorities crunch down on criminality. Jamaicans are also being encouraged to incorporate their personal security cameras into the national CCTV camera network. I am a product of the Jamaican culture and I believe the constant increase in crime is due to the lack of order in our society. Therefore, I think the Jamaica Eye initiative is a breath of fresh air and can help with the fight against crime.
Minister of National Security, Dr.Horace Chang, has also emphasised that Jamaica Eyes isn’t only about this network of CCTV camera surveillance systems. We are the eye of Jamaica. The “informa fi dead” culture has to end so that crime can be reduced and Jamaica can truly become the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.
Those with the requisite skills can help the Ministry of National Security with the Jamaica Eye project by:
- Developing a stable, robust and secure application that enables members of the security forces to access live feeds of the Jamaica Eye on the go
- Providing maintenance services for both the hardware and software components
- Helping the security forces with encouraging Jamaicans to incorporate their security systems with the Jamaica Eye’s network of cameras
Security continues to be a prevalent problem in Jamaica. Therefore, it is important for proper treatment to be given to those who risk their lives daily to protect ours. New legislation, and actions by the government, have made it mandatory to pay security workers better. Savvy entrepreneurs can capitalise on these changes and create their own private security firms while being mindful not to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. There are also opportunities for those with the requisite skills to assist with the Jamaica Eye project. The ball is in your court. Start that business, make a difference. How can you contribute to solving Jamaica’s security issue?