THE Government is moving to amend over 500 contracts to upgrade the status of guards — hired through security guard firms to provide services at ministries, departments and agencies — to employees, in light of last September’s Supreme Court ruling establishing security guards as employees and not private contractors
The amendments to the contracts will have an effective date of April 1, 2023.
Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, making the announcement during a press briefing held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in downtown Kingston Thursday afternoon, said a task force is to be appointed to engage, over the next 100 days, security guard firms that have contracts with the Government of Jamaica.
The engagement, he said, will be done with a view to amending all of these contracts in a manner that ensures security guards who are in service to the Government are treated as employees. The task force, said Clarke, is expected to negotiate with scores of security guard firms that are counter-parties to these more than 500 security guard contracts and the adjustment to the rates that will be required.
The finance minister, in pointing out that the amendments will not be limited to rates alone, said they will also contain conditions of employment with express requirement that security guards are recognised and treated and rewarded as employees in accordance with the laws of Jamaica.
“A breach of these terms with respect to any security guard working at any ministry, department or agency will be grounds for termination of that contract. This means that we have 500 contracts we can’t snap a finger and have them all changed, we have to have an orderly process to have them changed; the process will take time. They have to be reviewed, representatives will have to dialogue with the security guard firms and come to an agreement as to what the right rate should be and have those contracts written up and signed off on. We are giving 100 days’ maximum for that process to take place,” Clarke said.
“We will issue instructions to all procuring entities, all ministries, departments and agencies to say that in future, bid documents when you are seeking to procure security guard services, bid documents must include the condition that anybody who wants to provide a service to the Government of Jamaica must have or must be putting in place guards as employees and who benefit from all the rights and privileges of employees,” the finance minister said further.
“Persons who submit bids that fall short of that requirement will be thrown out even if those bids are at the lowest price,” he added.
He, in the meantime, encouraged private sector firms to follow the lead of Government in voluntarily renegotiating contracts with security guard firms in a manner which supports this progress.
“At some point once, sufficient time has passed for adjustments to be made private firms that wish to have the services of security guards but who fail to amend or enter into contracts that allow security guards to benefit as employees, in my view, ought to be named and shamed,” the finance minister warned on Thursday.
In the meantime, he urged security guard employers to act with haste to contact the Ministry of Labour and the heads of the various unions and work together to establish a joint industrial council for the sector.
“Today is a good day for security guards who work in the public sector, and we take this opportunity to urge corporations and private sector firms and all users of private security guard services to note what the Government of Jamaica is committing to do today and to have meaningful discussions and arrive at an acceptable path forward,” Dr Clarke said.
The task force will be led by former deputy governor of the central bank of Jamaica Livingston Morrison and will consist of public servants from a variety of ministries, departments and agencies.
In the Supreme Court decision involving the National Housing Trust and Marksman Limited, handed down on Friday, September 23, the court ruled that effective then, third-party security guards employed to Marksman Security Limited are employees and not independent contractors and that the company should immediately begin paying over their three per cent National Housing Trust statutory contribution.
Marksman, in the wake of that ruling, said there would be an increase in the rates/fees to clients. Shortly after the Jamaica Society for Industrial Security said the ruling had thrown the sector into turmoil, noting that over 35 years Marksman Limited and other private security companies, with the full knowledge of the Government of Jamaica, has treated the security guards that they engaged as independent contractors or self-employed individuals.