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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SEIU trying to organize Halifax Securitas guards

Posted By on Wed, Aug 25, 2010 at 6:17 PM

The Service Employees International Union is attempting to organize Halifax-area security guards who work with Securitas, a Swedish-headquartered firm with operations around the world, including 160-180 local employees.

The union is going public with its drive today, Thursday, because “we’re trying to pressure Securitas to honour its agreement,” says SEIU organizer David Bush. In 2006, Securitas signed an international agreement with unions committing the company to neutrality during unionization drives, and said it would provide unions with necessary employee information and provide a neutral setting for union organizers to meet with prospective members. (Read that agreement here.)

Bush says North American Securitas management has repeatedly ignored the agreement. Locally, “they’ve sent out letters [to employees] saying that the union is a third party, and that they shouldn’t join a union---that’s a violation of the agreement.”

Securitas management in the Dartmouth office referred questions to Dwayne Gulsby, president of Securitas Canada, with Toronto offices. Gulsby did not return a call for comment.

There appears to be management intimidation of employees, agrees Michael Anthony, who works as a Security guard at the Natural History Museum. “There are a number of employees who would like to see us have a union, but they are a little afraid to be seen as being in favour of the union.”

He cites the example of guards who work at the RIM facility, where guards are paid a $2/hour premium wage because “it’s a much more demanding site---they give you 10 hours of work to cram into eight hours.” The guards at RIM, says Anthony, “are afraid to be seen talking to anyone from the union, because they could be shipped to another site where they’ll be making $2 less an hour.”

Anthony began working as a security guard for Pinkertons in 1973. He worked other jobs, but came back in 1983, and became a Securitas employee when that firm acquired Pinkertons. With over 30 years in the business, he now earns just $9.85 an hour, the most he’s ever been paid.

Still, neither Bush nor Anthony say pay is their greatest concern. Rather, both mention the lack of site-specific training as their first concern. “The guards are getting on-the-job training,” says Bush. “These people are first responders, first responders to people, and to the building.”

“There are some malls, where there might be some rough characters showing up and occasionally a person might have to make an arrest,” says Anthony. “There should be proper training given for how to handle that. I’ve never heard of this company offering that kind of training.”

Other concerns involve uniforms. New employees are issued two new shirts, says Anthony, but have to purchase additional shirts for $9. Securitas charges employees $40 for its uniform sweater, and won’t allow guards to wear non-uniform sweaters.

There are also scheduling issues, says Bush.

“I signed the union card the first day someone came up to me,” says Anthony. “It’s not that I’ve been pro-union, it’s just that I’ve had this feeling that it’s time for a change.” —Tim Bousquet

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