Legislative changes likely after security guard court ruling, says Mayne

OCHO RIOS, St Ann — Minister of state in the Ministry of National Security Zavia Mayne says legislative changes may be needed as the Government mulls its next step in the wake of a court ruling that recognises security guards a
s employees and not independent contractors.

“The court ruling has settled that matter once and for all and so we will have taken note of the court ruling and use this as an opportunity to bring all the stakeholders to the table to chart the way forward for the industry, which may include legislative amendments,” said Mayne.

He was speaking on Wednesday during a stop, at Turtle River Park in Ocho Rios, by the Private Security Regulation Authority’s (PSRA) mobile unit.

On September 23, 2022, the Revenue Court ruled that security guards engaged by Marksman Limited are employees and not contract workers and that the firm should immediately start paying its portion of National Housing Trust (NHT) contributions.

The housing trust took Marksman to court in 2017, claiming that the company had not paid more than $477 million in statutory contributions for the financial years 2000-2016. The hard-fought legal battle highlighted just one of the complaints by security guards over the years. In addition to an inability to access NHT benefits, they have also complained bitterly of low wages and long hours.

During Wednesday’s event, the minister of state stressed the importance of the sector.

“The Government’s intention is to develop a thriving security guard industry. Regulation and compliance is important. We realise that our security industry has made a significant contribution to enhance servicing in public spaces, in residential areas, work places and government infrastructures and so it is important to Government,” he said as he addressed those gathered.

He said the mobile unit is part of ongoing efforts to improve the level of service provided to those who work in the industry.

“When you look at the complement of security guards, which is 27,000 right throughout the island, we then recognise that in order to serve our customers we have to modernise and develop. So this is just one of our thrusts to developing,” he said of the PSRA’s mobile unit.

PSRA Executive Director Rick Harris also spoke of the importance of the sector and urged greater use of the services the authority offers.

“In our thrust to modernise and improve the PSRA, we improved the channels through which persons can access the services of PSRA. The Mobile Registration Unit is a part of that and online registration is also there. So what we are ensuring is that it is easy for guards, private investigators, securities and everyone who registers with the PSRA to meet the compliance requirements and have access to the application for the license,” he said.

First rolled out in November 2021, the mobile unit is aimed at improving accessibility, resulting in a boost of registration for private security personnel and companies across the country. It is a bus that has been retrofitted to fit two meeting rooms, document storage facilities and a bathroom.

Wednesday’s stop in Ocho Rios ensured that, for the first time in seven years, Anthony Campbell, a security officer employed to Hawkeye, has been able to renew his licence without travelling to Kingston. He was among the more than 80 individuals who either applied for or renewed licences at Turtle River Park.

“I love this mobile unit that they come in with. It is 100 per cent convenient for me. I use to travel all the way to Kingston to renew my license and today I just walked over here and get it done, so I save time and money,” Campbell told the Jamaica Observer.

“I think it is a good idea because I don’t have to travel from far to get these things done,” added Wayne Dunkley, another security guard who showed up at Turtle Beach on Wednesday.

— Akera Davis

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