Private Security Services have been on the increase in recent times. Quite a number of government offices, agencies, corporate organizations, small and medium scale business, private residences and individuals now use these services. But the private security companies exploit the workers they employ.
They hide behind the authority of Recruitment Licenses sanctioned by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, to promote casualization of labour. The workers are denied the right to belong to unions and enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining. Consequently, they do not have the benefit of decent work. Their jobs and incomes are not secure.
These private security companies are regulated and registered by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to provide security services to multinational corporation, embassies, private residences of rich people and even government establishments.
The primary employers of these security guards (i.e. those whose properties they guard) pay what is supposed to be the wages of these workers to the private security companies. But these private security companies end up paying as low as 30% of such amounts to this set of workers.
To fight against this brazen exploitation, the workers have made efforts to organize themselves by creating a trade union. This is in line with the ILO fundamental principles and rights at work, for them to be able to advance their legitimate interests. They have met all the requirements, but they have been denied the right to organize and collective bargaining.
The employers are holding the whip of unemployment over their heads, knowing that, with the high level of unemployment in the country, a thousand people are out there willing to take the job if anyone quits as protest against violation of their labour rights. But this sort of blackmail can only last for a while. Other trade unions and the labour centres have to stand in solidarity with the private security workers, to help them break the huge yoke on their backs.
They often work for 24 hours at a stretch for four days each week. Apart from how inhumane this is, it also means they work for 96 hours a week as against the mandatory maximum of a 40-hour working week, by the labour law.
What the also end up getting paid, while the security company smiles to the bank is nothing to write home about. The best paid of them are the supervisors. And the average pay for a supervisor is just N26,000. This falls short of the national minimum wage of N30,000.
In several cases, these workers also have to provide the personal protective equipment they use from their meagre monthly take home pay, because employers fail in their responsibility to ensure the guards workplace safety and health.
Despite the pittance they receive monthly, the guards are not entitled to any gratuity for when they are asked to leave the job. Nor are they on any form of pensions arrangement. Not only do they face income and job security, their futures are rendered hopeless.
This sort of situation cannot be allowed to continue. SWL is rendering and will continue to render the support it can to these guards who seek to build a union. They need the support of the trade union movement to win. Addressing this nightmare must be taken up as part of the anti-casualisation campaign of the national trade union centres.
by Kelvin AYEMHENRE