Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

An association representing private security company owners is up in arms over a recently established bargaining council in the industry, saying it lacks legitimacy.

The private security industry is big in SA, with close to 10,000 registered companies. This has largely been attributed to the government’s failure to deal with the escalating crime in the country.

Various estimates suggest that between R45bn and 50bn a year is spent on private security and the industry employs just over 500,000 people, far outstripping police numbers.

In a recent letter to parliament’s police portfolio committee, oversight committee and labour, the Association of Private Security Owners of SA (Tapsosa) said it was concerned that trade unions in the private security sector, together with a section of employers, had established a bargaining council, and collective agreements were being extended to nonmembers.

The association said the introduction of the National Bargaining Council in the private security industry posed a serious challenge to most employers and their employees.

“Not only does it have a huge financial implication to the latter, it also provides an additional opportunity to be utilised as the machinery to outmanoeuvre the competition by those that are gearing up to monopolise this industry,” the association said.

It said the bargaining council recently concluded a collective agreement on the levy, which requires employers to pay an amount of R7 for each employee, and employees will also contribute an equal amount from their wages. The move means the bargaining council will receive more than R7.5m per month, Tapsosa stated in its written submission to parliamentarians.

It said the historically disadvantaged businesses, including the employees being the majority in the industry, are unable to afford the payment of additional costs on top of the already heavy existing regulation cost in the industry.

Furthermore, “it is also concerning that the people who were removed from the Private Security Sector Provident Fund (PSSPF) are occupying key positions in the bargaining council.

“These are the same people that the Financial Service Conduct Authority [removed] as the board of trustees for wrongdoing ... So how do we then entrust that they will manage our monies and that of our employees in the bargaining council when the PSSPF was mismanaged?”

This week, the association’s secretary-general, Moses Malada, said security officers are already underpaid while the majority of employers could not afford additional fees, as they operated in the most vulnerable sector where clients appointed companies on the principle of the lowest bidder.

“Furthermore, we are saying you cannot have a situation where another employer regulates and investigates another employer and expect fair competition. The regulation of the sector must be completely independent of the conflicting interest. We feel the introduction of the National Bargaining Council in the private security industry poses a serious challenge for most employers and their employees,” Malada said.

He said the association would be pursuing the matter in court, challenging the authority of the labour minister in extending the collective agreement of the bargaining council to nonparties.

Philemon Bhembe, the security national co-ordinator at the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) rubbished Tapsosa’s statements, saying the association was not registered as an employer association and therefore was noncompliant.

Bhembe said the bargaining council was properly constituted with seven labour unions and two employer associations, namely the SA National Security Employers’ Association (Sansea) and the Security Association of SA. He said any outside party opposing wage agreements finalised in the council, for example, had a right to apply for an exemption if they felt they could not afford proposed salaries.

“It is within their right to challenge it [bargaining council] ... but the reason they are challenging it is because they want to remain noncompliant and represent noncompliant members,” Bhembe said.

The department of employment & labour could not be immediately reached for comment.