“The requirement for compliance with the minimum wage ought to be further discussed as it is apparent that not even government agencies that have procured private security services are yet to comply with Minimum Wage Order”.
That is one of the recommendations by the Parliamentary Committee on Delegated Legislation chaired by Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Boss Shollei after looking at the proposed Regulations meant to operationalise the Private Security Regulation Act 2016. This was the first time I have witnessed an employer being excused from complying with the minimum wage.
First, the quote suggests that the responsibility of complying with the minimum wage is on the client and not the private security service provider. The impression given is that the responsibility of compliance with the minimum wage law is the choice of the client affording to pay, yet the pricing of the services should start from complying with the minimum wage.
Second, did the committee ask itself whether the issue about compliance with minimum wage is about affordability or service providers simply failing to honour by undeservedly taking large share of the payment? It has been established that almost three-quarters of the guarding cost per head paid by clients remains with security firms claiming it as operational overheads whilst the security guard goes home with less than a quarter.
So, is the issue entirely about affordability or transparency in pricing? In fact, some private security providers are already in compliance with the minimum wage and statutory deductions.
Third, the committee chose to go with the submission by the security industry associations that complying with the minimum wage would warrant them to pay a salary of Sh27,993 for a night guard and Sh25,641 for a day guard, therefore a client will have to be charged a minimum wage of Sh51,000 less administrative costs and other related charges which is unsustainable in our economy.
It’s surprising how the committee bought this submission without independently verifying the claim. How much the pricing of guarding services costs private security service provider to comply with the minimum wage was one the fundamental matters the committee failed to interrogate or deliberately avoided before making its recommendations when there is a structural problem in this industry.
The pool of workers in the industry is an estimated 500,000, almost close to the total number of workers in the public sector. Now, there are guards who are paid as low as Sh4,000 and going by a recent story carried in the Daily Nation that big service providers whose portfolio of clients include top corporates and establishments are paying their guards Sh7,000 to Sh10,000. This therefore means that the general standards of living and quality of life through job employment in this industry will remain low because there is no progression to higher income. The industry is disincentivized by low income meaning productivity will also remain low.
Lastly, the committee chose to throw out the whole regulation without taking to account the dire welfare concern of security guards. In the Daily Nation story, it was reported that security guards work 26 days a month – sometimes work 24 hors a day, and in the event they miss to report to work a deduction is made by the employer as high as Sh600 per day meaning that if one is to miss a week he/she loses his/her whole salary for them month making them not to afford the thought of a paternity or even annual leave.
Also, despite them being the first line of defence security firms don’t insure them therefore in the event of any risk occurrence they don’t receive any compensation. How the committee failed to see this as nothing short of labour slavery that requires urgent redress but instead chose to annul the whole report throwing the desperate welfare concern of security guards in a limbo was heartlessly unconscious of them.