As the long-awaited Private Security and Investigative Services Act (formerly Bill 159) takes hold in Ontario, the industry sounds off on battling red tape, the pros and cons of portable licensing, and whether customers and the public will be better served under the Act.
Last year, the Private Security and Investigative Services Act (PSISA) came into effect in Ontario. The new law requires security industry workers to be licensed, including some that were not licensed before. New licensing provisions will allow security workers to change employers without having to be re-licensed or to work for more than one security firm. Changes also include standards for uniforms, equipment, vehicles, conduct, licence eligibility, agency documentation/record keeping requirements, business registration and insurance.
The intention has always been to make these changes to strengthen the professionalism of the security guard and private investigator industries and increase public safety. While the training standard and curriculum have yet to be rolled out in Ontario, contract guard companies and their employees have been immersed in the licensing component for months. Previously unlicenced security guards and private investigators employed by the in-house sector will have until August 23, 2008 to obtain their licences. Those using contract security services have also been watching with a careful eye to see how the changes, such as portable licensing, will impact them.
To see how the industry is coping with all the change, in mid-May Canadian Security gathered its editorial advisory board together along with some experts in the area of training and regulation to take stock of the changes taking shape.
|Ted Carroll, Policing and Security Management Services Inc.||Derek Knights, SunLife Financial|
|Paul Carson, Garda Vice-president Ontario and Atlantic Canada||John Kopinak, Canadian Association Chiefs of Police Private Sector Liasion Committee|
|Blair Dunker, Manager, Private Security Investigative Services Branch,
Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
|George Majkut, Director Loss Prevention, The Source By Circuit City|
|Ken Hanson, Regional Vice-president, G4S Security Services||Brian Robertson, President, Diligent Security Training & Consulting|
|Corey Hill, Manager Corporate Security, City of London||Lorenzo Rosa, Regional Director, Human Resources, G4S|
|Minaz Jivraj, Safety and Security Officer, Dufferin Catholic District School Board||Jim Watts, President and CEO Commissionaires Great Lakes, one of 17 divisions of the Commissionaires|
|Bill Johnson, XCG Security Training and Consulting|
Canadian Security Magazine: Individuals are now responsible for obtaining and maintaining their own licence under the new Act. Ken, can you talk about what G4S’s experience has been to date with this change in the licensing component?
Ken Hanson: At the very least it was very challenging, there’s no question about that. We started the process in mid to-late January with the understanding that this was the first year the employees themselves were responsible for making the application. We made sure we gave them all the assistance they needed. It was very important that any officer in the field who felt they needed to come into the office and get the assistance that they needed.
We went to great lengths to assist them. Even with that, three weeks before the deadline we had much higher-than-average numbers that hadn’t complied yet, and that made our task even more difficult. Some individuals sent in their applications from their home rather than from our office and then they would find out two weeks prior to the deadline that they didn’t have their card yet. We had to give them guidance as to where to do get it rectified. The Ministry was very helpful in assisting us though.
We had to take three or four officers off the schedule this year because they didn’t get their ID cards because the background checks went deeper this year. We had officers that had been in the industry for five or 10 years, but this year they got a letter in the mail and wondered why they couldn’t get a licence. They were asking us, ”˜What about my livelihood? What am I going to do now?’
CSM: Is that because they had a criminal offence?
Hanson: Either that or they may not have filled out the application properly or there was an offence and they didn’t understand the significance of reporting it.
Paul Carson: We’re having all kinds of issues. The biggest issue we are having is that the applications are sent to the officer at home and he attempts to fill it out and we have no control over it. We sent out letter after letter telling them we need a photocopy of their licence. We started the process of having our mobile supervisors go out and physically pick up the licences — a cost we didn’t think we’d have to incur.
The Ministry’s online list has also posed a challenge. One day the guy’s licence is invalid and the next day it’s valid. From a paperwork perspective it’s onerous, to say the least and not consistent. The Ministry has been helpful — they get back to us right away, but sometimes the answers to the questions were vague.
CSM: Blair, is this simply a matter of growing pains?
Blair Dunker: This year is really all about transition and I think we knew there were going to be issues and certainly in the early fall we heard there were issues especially with returned applications. Most of those were being returned because, as you mentioned, people were filling in the application themselves and not filling them in properly. We had hired new staff into the office and spent a significant amount of time on training. We heard there were issues and adjusted a lot of our internal ministry branch processes. Every time we heard of an issue we huddled and said ”˜Is there something different we can do?’ We’re reacting and monitoring it all very closely.
CSM: Lorenzo, have you more focused on each individual application and making sure it’s filled out correctly?
Lorenzo Rosa: In the beginning we did do that — we held workshops day and night — we made it really attractive to the guard base and said, ”˜let us help you.’ Our mobile supervisors were also out there talking to staff about it. There are about 3,200 guards in our region and maybe 10 per cent decided to do it on their own and the majority of the applications that were rejected were ones who had a criminal offence but never had to put it on the application before. The ones we helped, they’re fine.
The other big challenge was if come May 1, the licence wasn’t on their, person you couldn’t put them to work. I’ll be very candid, if the Ministry inspector came and the guard didn’t have the card on him as far as I was concerned they’re licenced if it’s listed on the website as licenced. I don’t think the Ministry wants us to stop earning money because a card wasn’t sent on time. It’s not as if I sent the application yesterday, and I expect a card today ”“ the application was sent two months ago. Yes, the ministry has three feet of applications to deal with but that’s not my issue. At the same time, those instances were very minor — I would say that may have happened to 15 guards in the whole region.
Carson: The percentage of our people who tried to apply from home is probably 25 to 30 per cent. The process is disjointed because there is no ebb-and flow of information. Before the change in legislation it was our licence, we owned it, we would hand that licence over to the guard. If it ever came back from a non-renewal perspective we would know that officer was being denied his renewal and we could ask him: “What gives?” We don’t have that now ”“ we don’t know.
CSM: Jim, are you being hands on with licensing at the Commssionaires?
Jim Watts: We are. Our guys were never licenced so we in fact have until August 24, but we have taken a very hands on approach. Everything goes out to the people from our office and comes back through our office and is screened and we actually pay the fee and recover it.
Carson: But Jim, the Ministry has their home addresses, not yours. If we ask you this question next year I’m going to bet you your answer is going to be somewhat different.
Watts: I think so. I’ve heard the word challenging, for us it’s been more annoying. There’s been a lot of running around chasing people who are not good at filling out forms and not keen at sending back forms. There are a couple of reasons we’re at a disadvantage — one is we don’t have anyone in our HR department who has ever handled this. Another thing we’re running into is I already have a number of retirements.
CSM: Is that more related to what the training requirement will demand of them?
Watts: No, in some cases it’s that they are saying, “I’m not paying the government $80 to have a $12 an hour job.” It’s just that mentality.
CSM: George, what’s your game plan as someone in Loss Prevention who has never had to be licenced before?
George Majkut: Wait and see. I have to be advised first and specifically from the Ministry, that retail loss prevention managers have to be licenced if they only do internal investigations. We haven’t got an answer yet. Our company has to be registered, but reading the legislation it only means I have to be registered — I don’t have to be licenced and I don’t have to worry about hiring licenced people.
Dunker: Can you elaborate on your role?
Majkut: I’m the director of loss prevention for the Source By Circuit City. We have 500 plus stores across Canada and I have six loss prevention managers. We only do internal investigations.
Dunker: So those would be employees?
Majkut: Yes. We audit our stores and do inventory control.
Dunker: So from what you’re saying it sounds to me that you would be a registered business with employees and your employees, if they are security guards or private investigators, as an employee, they would have to be licenced.
Majkut: What’s the definition of a loss prevention manager?
Dunker: It’s not really about a definition of a loss prevention manager. I’d need a full description of the job.
Majkut: The Retail Council of Canada has worked with your department and is still waiting for an answer back. I asked Manitoba government and the answer I got back was that I did not need to be licensed. So it’s wait and see right now for retail, especially. I had no problem registering our company but going any further than that, no.
Dunker: But the other people in retail who are clearly security or investigators, not the managers, you would be planning to have those folks licensed?
Majkut: We only have the six people who do investigation. We don’t have floorwalkers. They do not prevent customers from leaving the store.
Listening to trainers in the industry, they want everybody who could potentially talk to the public to be licensed and that’s not the way we’re going. We’re going to listen to the government legislation and see, together with our lawyers and determine who is supposed to be licensed.
Dunker: I haven’t seen the information you have sent in but I can certainly have a look and make sure our lawyer sees it. In some cases it does come down to obtaining legal advice as to whether you choose to comply with that or not.
CSM: George, what is the Retail Council saying about stores that have floor people?
Majkut: Licensing is for floor people who do prevention and if potential injuries could be involved, they will be licenced and train.
CSM: What are you hearing from your peers in the industry?
Majkut: They are not going to get licenses — they are going to change job descriptions.
Minaz Jivraj: I’ve read some of this legislation and it’s extremely confusing, especially at the management level. I think somewhere down the line the Ministry needs to define a little more clearly what they’re really expecting of the various security personnel in the industry. If you have someone who administers a security organization, does he need to be licensed if he is not out there actively doing those things? It seems to be unclear in that definition. I don’t physically go out there and protect the kids at our schools — but in my role, I consult with the school principals and the police department and develop policies to put in place. I have contract security officers.
CSM: This was originally intended to address the guards, and yet the managers are left wondering who should be licensed?
Brian Robertson: I respectfully disagree with Minaz. I’ve been at a half dozen presentations where the Registrar has been asked about supervisors and managers and people in grey areas and every time he has circled the word “primarily” in the licensing provision. I’ve heard the registrar say that managerial and supervisory people are clearly not included if they are doing the operational work. Even if the manager or supervisor shows up and pitches in, if that’s not what they’re primarily there to do they’re not required to be licensed.
CSM: Ted, what have you seen with respect to your clients and this issue?
Ted Carroll: In my business I deal with a lot of in-house security organizations. The rule of thumb we generally use is if you have a front line supervisor on the floor, whether it’s a shopping centre or hospital and they do respond to calls for services and they will fill in when someone is short and they are where the action is, we recommend they get those frontline supervisors licensed. If they don’t there is a risk to exposure down the line. There’s a potential liability question of why didn’t you have those people licensed?
CSM: Corey, would you get yourself licensed?
Corey Hill: From a municipality perspective, when we looked at the legislation we focused on the word “primary” function. We contract out our guard services, but as a manager of corporate security I do investigations but that’s about 10 per cent of what I do. We spoke to the Ministry about the legislation and whether I would be required to be licensed but the decision was fairly clear we were not required to be licensed.
CSM: Derek, you’re in a similar position?
Derek Knights: We’re also in the insurance industry so we’re exempt anyway. But we hire investigators and security guards for some pretty intricate investigations so how this plays out is a very big deal for us.
CSM: John, what has your experience been?
John Kopinak: We’re hearing that B.C. is licensing tow truck people because they’re defining them as becoming part of a criminal investigation if picking up a hit and run and now they need to be licensed. And we have Newfoundland and Nova Scotia saying if the guards aren’t the licence holder, the business that employs them is the licence holder. So some corporations are saying what the heck am I paying corporate taxes for something that is not my core business.
CSM: I’d like to address the issue of portable licensing now. Bill, as someone who has worked in the industry and trained guards what are the pros and cons?
Bill Johnson: I agree with portable licensing. I think it’s imperative guards have the ability to move from company to company and find a better paying job without having to go through a process of re-licensing.
CSM: The criticism I’ve heard about portable licensing is that it can be a health and safety issue — working too many hours, guards showing up tired to the next employer. The other is competitive intelligence — someone could be working for Paul at Garda and then going to work for Ken at G4S the next day. Is asking for a non-compete clause realistic?
Carson: Let’s be realistic here, we have guards making $12 an hour. The vast majority of us do. We have guards working 40 hours a week on our site. If we have guards that work 40 hours at another site — at Ken’s or Jim’s facilities — there is a very real issue from a health and safety perspective; there’s a very real issue from a market intelligence perspective and an issue in them transporting, either surreptitiously or by accident, information that we would consider proprietary. Having them sign a piece of paper that illustrates that they are now part of our organization and only our organization isn’t realistic, they are not chattels ”“ we don’t trade them on the open market. It’s very difficult if not impossible to enforce something like that. I would challenge anybody in this industry to go before a judge and try and demonstrate that we own the licence.
Robertson: From my perspective the proprietary industry is the thorny issue here. We can debate the merits of portable licensing in the contract industry until we’re blue in the face. From a pragmatic point of view, there’s no such thing as a non-portable licence in the proprietary industry because there’s no practical way for the Registrar’s office to impose on registered businesses the kind of administrative burden of ownership of the licences that G4S and Garda have grown accustom to. I just don’t see a way to not have licences portable in the proprietary half of the industry and that raises the question of how could you keep employees in the proprietary sector from working for others ”“ how do you stop that from happening?
Carson: As an example of market intelligence security guards do patrols every day. They do access control — they check areas of buildings that would be considered vulnerable. They watch garbage being shredded or disposed of on a regular basis. Let’s say I have a guard that works at SunLife and Ken has an opportunity to hire guards for ManuLife and that guard has the ability to moonlight between SunLife and Manulife and if information was transferred between the two there would be implications for ManuLife and SunLife and there would be implications for us as an organization because we are tasked to protect these areas.
From a regulatory perspective we are going to have a real hard time that this guard works for you and you only. It’s just another problem that we now face.
Robertson: My point is that this problem has faced you all along. There was never anything to stop a guy from working at Garda in a contract role and moonlighting as an in-house officer at Manulife.
CSM: Ted, what do you tell your clients?
Carroll: I think that risk has always existed and at a different level. I deal with financial institutions and in some cases they use the same security provider. That’s always existed. I don’t see it, at the lower level with security guards as a lower risk. I think there’s a greater risk at the higher level with corporate managers and directors who move around from one company to another.
Majkut: The question I ask is if we only provide 32 hours a week to our contract guard staff is it incumbent upon me to make sure we can provide 40 hours to prevent them from going to work for someone else? It’s a big problem with a $12 an hour job. They have to supplement that wage to support themselves.
CSM: Corey, would you have an issue if you had contract guards working somewhere else in the evenings? Does safety become more of an issue?
Hill: It depends on the function the guards are performing for us to begin with. If they are performing fundamental access control service to one of our operational centres and they work hours elsewhere to ensure they have a full-time wage that may not be as critical an issue. But if we have someone working in a more critical role at say, City Hall, aware of the politics and discussions that go on in a facility like that the sensitivity for me as a client goes up significantly.
I’ve had that actual discussion with some of our providers. I hear the impact to the guard companies here, but the impact to me the client is even more concerning because I have no control over that. Whether they share information about the actual employer is one thing but whether they share the information on the actual site and client and information is a whole other issue for me.
CSM: Do you feel there’s nothing you can do about it though?
Hill: I’m waiting to see how things unfold. In my past experience where I was in charge of an in-house service we had this all the time — in-house staff fill the rest of their wages with in-house positions elsewhere. When they came to us and we knew about it we could talk about what was a conflict, what wasn’t a conflict.
CSM: Was it a health and safety issue?
Hill: The staff didn’t work back-to-back 12-hour shifts ”“ what we were worried about was information sharing. They were bound by policy to have confidentiality agreements.
Jivraj: We have a lot of buildings under construction and renovation. A few years ago we had a gentleman who was supposed to be looking after a site and he had worked 12 hours before coming to us and he fell and took a real big dive. The contract company dealt with it and it was resolved but in the post-mortem and following up on it we discovered he had worked 12 hours before. It raised a question for us as a client and raised the question: Are we now responsible on the liability side? They could easily sue the school. There is risk involved. If he or she is not mentally competent to sustain that scenario at 2 o’clock in the morning does the board then become liable?
CSM: Lorenzo, what’s your feeling on this issue?
Rosa: Portable licensing within Ontario is fantastic but they sort of missed the mark. They should have said portable is OK, but you can only work for one company at a time. You don’t have to re-apply or pay $80 again or wait the five days ”“ you just have to write to the Ministry and say the person is no longer working for Garda and it’s changed in the database.
Where I feel the Ministry fell short was to leave it in the hands of the guard. They can moonlight and they share information, it doesn’t matter but I don’t want them working for Garda if they’re working for me. Portability should have been mandated as working for one security company and one security company only.
Jivraj: What happens if you suspend somebody?
Carson: We’ve actually had that situation where we have terminated people for issues that would be considered integrity issues and they are working for the competition.
Jivraj: This whole issue now puts the whole industry into question that you don’t have the ability to know what’s going on with your guards.
Carroll: It’s really no different with nurses who work in-house or for agencies.
Hanson: I agree with a lot of what’s been said about portable licences. I think what companies like Garda and G4S have to understand is that the industry is still evolving ”“ in the past the guard was our employee — we in essence controlled that person. The Ministry has taken that out of our hands and empowered that individual and that individual now controls their licence ”“ their licence is their work.
Each guard is a private contractor and they are coming to us with their licence. They come to us and say you want to hire me, I’ll contract myself out to you. That’s how portable licensing has changed this industry. It’s something some of us in the industry haven’t come to understand fully. Even a lot of the guards don’t understand the power they now hold over us and low and behold when they do understand completely the power they have.
CSM: When all the pieces of the Private Security and Investigative Services Act are in place, does the industry believe it will be improved?
Hill: I’m interested in whether bill rates will be going up and the fact those costs may be passed off to clients.
Robertson: An important perspective to maintain is what the purpose of a regulatory regime is — it’s not to improve the quality of our lives or to improve the quality of the service or to make the lives of officers particularly better. This legislation exists to protect Ontarians. In that respect it’s designed to set minimum standards.
Carson: To Lorenzo’s point, we have to get buy-in from our clients.
Dunker: We’re in a huge transition and it’s so new and we’re not even at the one-year mark. A lot of this is tweaking — we have to revisit some things. Every time we hear from someone we get together and look at how we can do things better.
Watts: Back in 2004-2005 we were enthusiastic supporters of the Act and thought it would be great for the industry as a whole. Here we are three years later and can I say I have one single client that has been better served as a result of this legislation? Absolutely not. Can I say the citizens of Ontario are safer than before the legislation was passed? Absolutely not. This has accomplished nothing. The fact it has taken so long to even think about how we’re going to do this training and testing is an embarrassment — we’re the laughing stock of the world. I also think anyone who thinks we’re going to pass any of these costs on to our clients at any significant rate is dreaming.
I have a provincial government contract that is in year two of seven and they said ”˜No way.” They won’t even pay me for Family day.
It’s not the guard companies at this table that are the problem. If I’m going to tender I know where they’re coming from and they know where I’m coming from. It’s the ones with billing rates less than our pay rates that I’m worried about. This legislation doesn’t seem to show anything that is going to help clear that up in the short term.
A video summary of the discussion can be viewed at CanadianSecurityMag.com.