Security guards, employers turn to mediation in bid to avoid strike

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Private security guards and their employers are heading for two days of mediation in October following weeks of deadlocked wage talks.

While employers, represented by the South African National Security Employers' Association, are offering a 1.1% increase to their salaries, unions are demanding that security officers’ salaries be lifted to R7 500 for the lowest grade and up to R8 500 for the highest grade.

The minimum wage for security guards currently ranges from R3 900 to R5 558 per month in urban areas.

Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers Union (Detawu) general secretary Vusi Ntshangase told Fin24 that in terms of the sector's protocol agreement, the parties had to consider compulsory mediation, which will sit on October 1 and 2.

If the mediation process fails to produce an agreement, a dispute will be registered at the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). Should the CCMA fail to break the deadlock, the sector will see its first strike in years.

Ntshangase told Fin24 it was unlikely that the mediation process would break the impasse.

"I don't see the meeting succeeding in bridging the gap. Employers offer 1.1% but we are demanding grade adjustments. Only a fool can refuse to believe that it is going to take more to get the parties to meet each other," said Ntshangase.

'Opulent' lifestyles

Ntshangase said the industry's "strong profit margins" and the "opulent lifestyle of captains of industry" could not be allowed to continue parallel to the low wages of security officers.

Fidelity CEO Wahl Bartmann similarly said there was a substantial difference between what employees were demanding and what the South African National Security Employers' Association (SANSEA) was prepared to offer.

The bargaining council for the sector started talks in in August. "It was facilitated by independent facilitators and in the presence of the interim CEO of the Bargaining Council," said Bartmann.

The private security industry in South Africa is a large employer, with more than half a million security offers, according to the Private Security Industry Regulator of SA's 2017/18 annual report.

By comparison, the South African Police Service employs 190 000 people.

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