Reforms in private security inevitable

In Summary

• Realising that they have a leeway to decide on whatever salaries they deemed fit, some employers in private security firms have turned into leeches.

• Despite the standard working hours in a day of eight hours guards' four extra hours are not at all considered for overtime. 

Security guards during a past event in Nairobi.
WE DESERVE BETTER: Security guards during a past event in Nairobi.
Image: FILE

The arbitration framework for negotiation of emoluments of private security firms needs to be in place as part of the ongoing reforms.

This is because of the low salaries that the employers in private security firms pay the guard and quartette their employment with poor terms and condition of work.

Realising that they have a leeway to decide on whatever salaries they deemed fit, some employers in private security firms have turned into leeches, rather than establishing a symbiotic working relationship with their employees.

Currently, in some private security firms, the salaries that employers negotiated are not the ones paid to the guards and quartette. The greed interest in them has made them split the salaries into almost half.

What I mean is that for every guard that the client pays Sh35, 000 or Sh40, 000, the employer takes the largest chunk. A guard, depending on a shift, day or night working for 12 hours, gets paid as little as Sh13,000 (day shift) and Sh14,000 (night shift)  a month, yet working as the beast of the burden, so to speak.

Despite the standard working hours in a day of eight hours guards' four extra hours are not at all considered for overtime.  Accruing benefits like transport allowances, house allowances and risk allowance are not seen as necessary.

It's common knowledge about the risk that guards and quartettes face in line of executing their duties. They offer their service to a company or factory that produce products worth millions of shillings, yet arm themselves with a whistle and the pR 24 batons to ward off armed robbers.

Going forward, pay setting should not be left to employers in private security firms to unilaterally determine. There should be a national agreement as a minimum benchmark on the salary setting.

For a very long period of time, guard and quartettes forgotten, in fact they were despised in society, going by the name watchmen and women. The morale towards work all along has been down. Imagine being in a career that is not at all incentivized, where one is not unionized and get paid salaries not at the end of the month, as it should be, but almost in the middle of the new month, crowded with debt left right and center, and almost being thrown out of rental house and with no food to help themselves on.

That’s is why a strong union needs to be up and running doing its job of collective bargaining with employers. It’s the same reason that government intervention is welcome. Reforms in private security firms are inevitable.

Of late, the Kenya private security firms have hinted at arming security guards to enhance security in the country. It sounds good. However, how do you arm a guard or quartette with a gun and at the end of the month he or she is paid a paltry Sh12, 000 or Sh13,000?

Terms and conditions of work for private security guards and quartettes must be improved. Interior CS Fred Matiang'i should put the briefcase private security employers where they belong for not paying taxes and profiteering at the expense of employee in their organisations.

At least with reform, private security union shall have an opportunity to put in a claim for an all-round increase. The said Sh27,000 paid to a guard or quartette earning less than Sh15,000 will revolutionise their lives in terms of basic needs and other necessities, it will embolden their resolve to commit themselves to work hard and ensure safety prevails.

The government should make it mandatory that private security firms that do not carry out the requisite reforms in their organisation have their licences to operate withdrawn forthwith.