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Jobs: Security guards, the most exploited
Sreelatha Menon
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October 20, 2008

Krishna was in the eighth hour of his duty outside an ATM in New Delhi. He had another four hours to go before he could call it a day as he works overtime all seven days of the week. He earns around Rs 5,400, including overtime, but hasn't received a penny in the last two months.

This is routine, he says. Money comes in trickles in two or three months.

He works for a multinational which provides security guards to companies. He is supposed to protect the premises from encroachers, terror strikes, bombs, etc. He is one of the over five million private security guards protecting people and property in the cities.

According to the Central Association of Private Security Industry, the number will double in the next five years and private securitymen already outnumber policemen by 2:1.

Many work for huge multinational companies like G4S, Premier, Tops, Walsons, which make crores (millions) in profits, but pay as poorly as the law allows, and often worse, according to a report by G4Solidarity, a campaign by trade union organisations led by Switzerland-based Uni Global Union, CITU and INTUC.

The report, which surveys workers of G4S, which employs 131,000 guards in the country, is part of a bid to ensure that companies hired to provide security for the Commonwealth Games abide by law and ensure workers' rights.

Krishna envies the city's rickshaw-pullers, who earn more than him, often Rs 400-500 a day. He doesn't want to quit as he wants the uniformed job. Of course, Rs 900 for his uniform was deducted from his salary.

The report slams the company for paying its workers poverty wages. In Delhi, they get Rs 133 a day and if they do overtime, which they inevitably do, they get only slightly more as the extra payment is calculated on the basis of their basic pay and not the total wages.

They also get bonus, ESI health coverage, house rent allowance (HRA) and provident fund (PF) benefits. But all these are calculated on the basis of their basic salary. G4S workers told the survey team they were not given PF contribution slips.

In Delhi, G4S cut employer contribution towards ESI from salaries and denied workers ESI cards, the report said, adding that the workers had no contract, got no leave, and were paid no wages while waiting for a posting.

G4S says it is being targeted because of its size. The regional head of the company, Rupal Sinha, says a Supreme Court ruling allows PF, overtime and bonus amounts to be calculated on the basic pay. The company said it would love to ban overtime but guards would move to another firm if it did so. Government support is needed, she says.

She says contract papers and ESI cards are indeed given and the company would not have retained its employees and have an auditor like KPMG if things had been so bad.

The Private Security Agencies Regulation Act, 2005, makes no mention of wages or working hours. Sinha says that if the government brings these into the Act, the company can ban overtime.

The report comes when G4S is negotiating with the government for outsourcing works ranging from traffic control and prisons to intelligence gathering.

Both the company and the unions want it to be declared an industry, but their reasons vary. Unions want the Industrial Disputes Act to apply to the industry. The Minimum Wages Act and the Contract Labour Act already apply but there is no mechanism to monitor the implementation of these Acts.

Meanwhile, Krishna says he is not afraid of bombs or bullets. For someone braving worse, death must be chicken feed.

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