Canadian Security Magazine

Security divided over image

Neil Sutton   

Features Opinion

Here’s a sneak peek at the results of the 2011 Canadian Security Salary Survey: front-line security has an image problem.

The December issue will go into much greater depth on the results and their implications, but from early impressions it became clear that some people employed in the profession are concerned not only about their career path but also about the perception of security guards in the public eye. A few of the comments referred to the “mall cop” phenomenon, where security guards are seen as wannabe police officers. Others talked about the lack of respect the job engenders.

Almost any profession, especially at entry level, is bound to have its ups and downs. And if you give people a platform such as the salary survey, which we conduct annually, they’re going to use it to air grievances. But it seems that the word “respect” — or, specifically, the lack of it — came up time and time again.

Recent events aren’t helping to raise the profile of the profession in the eyes of the public. Garda made headlines this fall when its staff, working at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, staged a wildcat strike.

A report which later emerged in the pages of the Toronto Star suggests that the strike was staged in response to a scheduling system that Garda is reportedly considering called “shift bidding.” Under the system, employees set their own hours by bidding on the shifts they wish to work. As the Star article explains, the system has been used in U.S. hospitals to schedule extra shifts above and beyond normal working hours. Nurses, in this case, can bid on extra shifts using a web-based scheduling system. The normal hourly rate is set as the minimum bid; once bidding closes, the lowest bidder is awarded the shift. If the lowest bid is, say, $3 an hour more than the regular rate, then that’s the rate that will be paid for that specific shift. The theory is that even an hourly rate slightly above normal would be considerably cheaper than bringing in temporary help from an outside agency.


Whether that’s how the system would work at Garda remains to be seen, since neither the company nor the union would comment on specifics for the Star story. (In a press release, the Canadian Airport Workers Union dismissed the system as “bizarre.”) Whatever the case, it seems that Garda has some internal staffing issues to address.

It’s disheartening to read negative comments about the profession from readers, since one would like to think that there are still good reasons for people to pursue security as a career. That’s why it’s also important to spotlight industry successes and the people who are leading by example.

I had the privilege of attending the ASIS Toronto chapter’s 14th annual Law Enforcement and Security Practitioners Awards Dinner last month. Among the award recipients was Sean Forder, an in-house guard with Oxford Properties at Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto. The Frontline Security award recognizes uniformed security practitioners who have demonstrated exceptional service, and Forder was selected for the award for going out of his way to help a wheelchair-bound customer who had difficulty communicating. When she attempted to cross a busy street and was in danger of being struck by oncoming traffic, Forder was able to cut the power to her wheelchair and prevent a potential accident. He then stayed with her for more than an hour to ensure she was safely aboard a Wheel-Trans vehicle. Not bad for a “mall cop.”

I should also point out that many of the comments we received in the salary survey were positive. Pick up a copy of the next issue of Canadian Security for more details.

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