The recent murder of a security officer during a robbery at Cunupia and the previous slaying of a young officer at La Romaine are further reminders that such personnel are also a first line of defence in the midst of the uncontrolled crime crisis taking over the country. In recent years, several hard-working officers, most of whom had young families, lost their lives in the line of duty.
The treatment of private security guards as second-class citizens must come to an end as the officers deserve greater respect and appreciation for faithfully conducting their duties of protecting people and property.
Stories of officers having to share unsuitably sized bulletproof vests, working in unsafe vehicles for the pick-up and delivery of money and sometimes being forced to work double and triple shifts for minimum wages are reasons to act to improve their working conditions.
The current explosion of bloody violent crimes has made the jobs of security officers equally more critical and dangerous. I call on the Government to work with the Estate Police Association (EPA) and security companies to improve the working environment of these officers.
There must be adequate provision of training, safety measures, relevant equipment and other resources, and fair compensation with essential benefits. A review of wages, including provisions for mandatory overtime payments, should be a priority matter.
Officers risking their lives on the job should be paid more than any minimum wage and be offered benefits such as medical, vacation and overtime increases, when working extra shifts.
I support the proposal of the EPA for the removal of taxes on lifesaving equipment e.g., bulletproof vests, to make them more reasonably priced for security companies. This tax break should also be expanded to the importation of bullet proof security vehicles.
A fund should be established jointly with government and registered security companies for the benefit of the families of officers who lose their lives while on duty, similar to what is provided to the police who also risk their lives in the line of duty. Defaulting employers must also be penalised for non-payment of National Insurance dues.
Security officers are undertaking crucial and often life-threatening jobs, especially during this unrelenting crime crisis, and must be properly protected and paid.
Monday’s Budget speech should indicate the Government’s commitment to this vital matter.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Leader of the Opposition
30th September 2023