At the annual general meeting of the International Association of Healthcare Safety and Security in Toronto last month, two guards from Rouge Valley Hospital were awarded the association’s Medal of Valour for their efforts in helping prevent someone in the hospital’s parking lot from committing suicide.
Their supervisor, Martin Green, nominated them for the award and they proudly attended the IAHSS dinner to receive their medals.
Green also tells his contract companies what their pay rate will be — typically $3 to $5 an hour more than the going rate. Green is an employer who recognizes the challenges frontline guards face and seeks to make their experience in the industry better. He wants them to see there is a career to be had in security and that it’s not just a low paying job often with considerable risk.
It’s a stark contrast to what many other guards in the industry experience, especially in Ontario right now as they struggle not only to earn a living wage but also to maintain their right to work. Many are also at the mercy of employers who have yet to update uniforms to comply with legislative changes made in August 2007.
We’ve had guards tell us that they are having to forego paying utility bills as they sit waiting for more than 30 days, hoping their licence will arrive in the mail.
We also heard from a young guy with a promising day job with a high tech Canadian company who works as an integrated security systems specialist. At night he often works at a bar in Southwestern Ontario to pick up some extra cash. The 27-year-old might make $70 a night doing this, but he enjoys the work.
Since the Private Security Investigative Services Act legislation came into effect in Ontario a year ago, “Alex” has known that what he wears at the bar had to change and he had been in discussions with the owners about it.
The T-shirt he wears should say “Security” on the back and he must wear an identification tag with his name and/or licence number on it. When he went to work one night last month he still didn’t have these small changes met by his bar employer — almost four years after the uniform regulation came into effect.
According to the PSISA, a licensed business entity shall ensure that the individual licensees employed by it comply with this regulation — and the Ontario Provincial Police are starting to crack down on those who refuse to comply.
Last month, Alex told me that word started to make its way through the bars in the city he works in that the OPP were doing a sweep. When they arrived at his bar, he says the manager had no idea what the police were asking about.
Since April 1, the OPP have been conducting raids, issuing charges for working as an unlicensed security guard, employing an unlicensed security guard, uniform violations, being an unregistered business, operating an unlicensed business entity, and failing to produce a license.
Business entities selling the services of security guards are required to be licensed by the ministry and responsible to ensure their security guards are licensed. Persons convicted of working as unlicensed security guards are subject to a maximum fine of $25,000, under the PSISA and up to one year in custody.
Alex’s court date is in July. He figures his fine could range between $250 and $2,500. Should his employer help him pay that fine? Probably. Some say he should have refused work if the conditions were not right, but unfortunately many guards are not in a position to do that and there is no one looking out for them. Let’s hope his employer has learned their lesson and guards like Alex don’t continue to take the brunt of the OPP’s crackdown.