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Threat of strike over wages looms in private-security industry

04 October 2019 - 09:26 By TimesLIVE
Wage negotiations have deadlocked in the private security sector.
Wage negotiations have deadlocked in the private security sector.
Image: 123RF/stylephotographs

A potential strike is looming in SA's private security industry, which employs about 500,000 active officers.

Labour unions have rejected the latest wage offer from employers and are set to declare a dispute with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

The standoff comes just weeks after the release of national crime statistics, which revealed that 21,022 people were murdered in SA between April 1 2018 and March 31 this year. Victims of sexual offences numbered 52,420.

This was an increase of 3.4% and 4.6% respectively.

On average, just fewer than 58 people were killed every day in SA in the past year, while 114 rapes were reported each day.

Nine unions with seats on the national bargaining council met employers on October 1 and 2 for a compulsory mediation process, according to a statement by the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu).

The unions had previously rejected a 1.1% wage hike by employers, arguing that in real terms it translated to 23c an hour for grade C officers, the lowest-paid category.

They have now rejected a 5% offer, insisting that they would accept nothing less than a salary adjustment to R7,500 for grade C officers, R8,000 for grade B and R8,500 for grade A officers.

“Currently, security officers are paid R4,377, R4,981 and R5,558 respectively,” said the union.

"No offer was put on the table with respect to benefits like hospital cover, which labour had demanded employers introduce and contribute 60% towards. Unions will now declare a mutual-interest dispute with the CCMA, after which the commission will attempt to bring the parties together. If that process also fails, unions will be issued with a certificate to take workers on strike.”

Chris Laubscher, elected as a joint employer representative, said  the demands made by organised labour were "unrealistic, and at odds with what employers are able to offer".

A third mediation session has been scheduled for October 16.

He was speaking on behalf of the South African National Security Employers’ Association (SANSEA) and the Security Association of South Africa (SASA).

“We care about our employees, but we are unable to match their unrealistic demand of 16.62%,” he said.

“The current demands submitted on behalf of employees equal unrealistic and unattainable conditions as well as salary increases for the security industry within our current economic climate,” he said.

Employers argue that significant progress had been made in narrowing the issues and the gap between the parties.  At the end of the mediation, employers offered an above- inflation increase of 5% for a grade C security officer with a rand or value-equivalent increase to the higher level grades in each respective year for a period of three years.

“We regret that labour representatives have failed to acknowledge, among others, the current dire economic situation in the country, the consumer price index (inflation rate) which is currently around 4.3%, and the unparalleled levels of noncompliance in the industry of the very regulations and terms and conditions of employment that result from negotiations between the parties.

“The employers are determined and remain positive to further engage with all the relevant labour representatives to find a suitable understanding and to reach an agreement that will benefit all parties,” said Laubscher.