–Labour Minister promises to intervene
SENTINEL Security Inc. is in the habit of not paying its Region Three (Essequibo Islands–West Demerara) security guards on time and currently owes them for the month of July, causing many of them to suffer unspeakable hardships.
The situation has since prompted Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton to declare on Monday that he will be reading the riot act to many a security firm, letting them know in no uncertain terms that they have to pay their employees on time.
Some of Sentinel’s guards have complained of being behind on the payment of their bills and that the situation is even affecting them mentally. One said things are so bad, he cannot even afford to eat.
“It affecting me greatly, because right now is only me alone for my house working,” he said, adding: “I really depending on the money. Right now I down; I feel very much stressed out. This is another month coming, and we ain’t get paid yet; we don’t know how long we have to wait.”
FEAR OF RETRIBUTION
Many of the guards are afraid to speak out, while those who are willing to speak have asked that their identities be withheld, for fear of retribution.
Late payment has been dogging Sentinel since earlier this year, and one employee was even fired after he’d filed a complaint with the then Regional Executive Officer, Jennifer Ferreira-Dougall.
Aside from their pay, the employees are also asking about annual leave to which they are entitled, as there has been no word on the matter to date.
Though he did not name the company at a virtual press conference held Monday, Minister Hamilton said he is expected to pay a visit to a security company in Region Three which is currently behind in paying its employees.
Sentinel has a history of being behind in paying it Region Three employees, ever since it was awarded a $666.5M contract by the then Ministry of Communities back in November 2017, to provide security services at public buildings in the Region.
Over the years, the company has been blaming the situation on the arrangement it has with the government.
The guards say they do not understand why they should be the ones to suffer, when the company has difficulties in its transactions.
“Nothing they ain’t telling you about yuh money; nothing,” one guard said. “They don’t know how you eating, or how you even getting money to reach to work, ‘cause they not paying you. But you still got to go to the job; and you want the job ‘cause you need the money.”
Minister Hamilton clarified that regardless of the company’s agreement with the government, security companies have an obligation to ensure they have sufficient cash-flow to pay their security guards on time, adding that he will be saying as much when he visits the company this Friday.
Minister Hamilton said he was made to understand that some of the employees have not been paid for as much as three months.
“Their excuse is they are waiting on the government to pay them, but when you have people working with you, you have to pay them,” Minister Hamilton said, adding: “I will seek to say to them, ‘You have to pay these people.’ The visitations will start, and I will continue engagement with all the stakeholders, for them to have an understanding of the outlook and vision going forward of the Labour Ministry,”
When contacted, the Company Operations Director, Christopher Thompson said he knows nothing of the matter.
Many of the security guards say that they believe that their situation could be vastly improved, if only they had a trade union to represent them. They also say that they have been warned by their superiors that if they are ever approached by anyone about joining a union, they must decline or they will be dismissed.
“They seh don’t join no union; anybody ask if you want join a union, say you don’t want join,” one of the guards revealed.
Minister Hamilton, however, said that employees cannot be denied their right as provided for by the Constitution, particularly their right to belong to a union of their choice, and employers must respect the rights of their employees and the Constitution.