Businesses and institutions which depend on the island’s largest security services company could be forced to search elsewhere for their security.
Workers at G4S Secure Solutions (Barbados) Ltd have been put on standby for possible industrial action in a dispute with their employers over wages.
At issue is the company’s plans to issue staff with option forms giving them the choice to say “yes” or “no” to a proposed pay cut, according to General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) Toni Moore.
The union met this morning with shop stewards of the security firm at the BWU’s Harmony Hall, St Michael headquarters to formulate a strategy that would prepare workers to take the necessary industrial action. A meeting was held with the staff of the firm at the same venue this evening to bring them up to date with developments.
G4S describes itself as the leading global integrated security company specializing in the provision of security products, services and solutions. The group is active in more than 110 countries, and is the largest employer quoted on the London Stock Exchange with over 623,000 employees, it says.
The Barbados operation, which is responsible for branches in Grenada and St Lucia, has 900 employees, but it was unclear tonight how many work here.
Moore told reporters that the proposal to cut workers’ pay was rejected during recent negotiations.
“The company is asking workers to accept a lower weekly wage. Now this has been a proposal the company had submitted during negotiations which had been protracted for some time now.
“The union naturally rejected the proposal. Instead [the union] signalled to the company that it would accept a two-year wage agreement [with] a moratorium. The company made the union aware last week that it would send workers an option form . . . and they would opt whether or not they would take a pay cut,” the union boss said.
“So when asked what if the workers decided they don’t want a pay cut? ‘Well, then, whatever,’ was the kind of response from the company. So this morning we are in a strategic exercise with the [security] officers of G4S, with their representatives largely, so that we can determine what response which would be necessary from us if the company indeed insists on the course that it has indicated that it would take,” Moore added.
Speaking against the background of unsatisfactory wages and conditions of work for security guards across Barbados, the trade union leader identified another issue for which G4S has also drawn the ire of the BWU.
Moore said it’s a decision by the firm to hire “stewards” to carry out security duties and pay them less than the security officers.
“In the case of G4S, you would have heard the union earlier this year and in recent times commenting on the concerns regarding security guards generally; and you would also heard us make specific mention of G4S on two levels. One, that company’s approach to hiring officers who are performing the same functions as security officers, calling them stewards and therefore paying them at a rate lower than that which security officers would get,” Moore stated.
Earlier this month Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer addressed the BWU’s concerns over the working conditions of private security guards when she addressed the dedication ceremony of the new headquarters for the TVET Council.
Dr Byer said she had instructed the Labour Department to gather information on that situation, so that it could be addressed from an evidence-based perspective.
“In terms of the general provisions, we are taking a look at them. The Labour Department will have to approach it differently from other groups, because as you know our security groups by and large are not unionized,” Minister Byer pointed out at the time.
In Barbados, G4S provides security for several businesses and Government services.
When Barbados TODAY contacted the local office tonight, no one authorized to talk was available for comment.
G4S was forced to pay out £88 million in 2013 over its failure to supply enough guards for the London 2012 Olympics.
The company, which admitted its handling of the Olympics was a “humiliating shambles”, said its overall annual profits slid from £257 million in 2011 to £175 million in 2012.
The company hit the headlines when it admitted just two weeks before the Olympic opening ceremony it would be unable to supply the 10,400 guards it had promised. The government was forced to call in the army and police at the last minute, and G4S was left to pick up the bill.