8 Dec 2020

Security guards assured employment protection with changes to law

6:19 am on 8 December 2020

Thousands of security guards will receive better protection of their pay and conditions, with the government moving to make changes to existing employment laws.

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Photo: 123RF

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood and the union say the industry is highly competitive and prone to frequent restructures.

Under new changes, security guards will be able to keep their jobs and retain their pay rates and conditions when a business is sold or restructured.

The announcement was made to E tū members at Parliament last night, after the Labour Party promised the union it would make changes to the law in the lead up to the election.

Jayson Ormsby has been a security guard for five years and said restructures and contract changes were common.

"Most companies they have contracts set out over a period of time, but then again if the company isn't performing they can also just sort of say 'we can get rid of you and that can be at any stage'," he said.

For Ormsby who is married and takes care of his elderly parents, that insecurity has taken a toll.

"The stress of not knowing whether you are going to get work or have income for the following week to pay for just the essentials: food and rent."

He said the law change was a big relief.

Security guards will eventually be added to protections already in the Employment Relations Act for workers more at risk of restructures.

That means the country's 7800 security guards will be able to transfer their terms and conditions of employment to their new employer during a proposed restructure.

The new employer must also recognise the workers' entitlements to sick leave, annual holidays and unbroken continuous service.

If that new employer then makes them redundant because of the transfer situation, they may become eligible for redundancy entitlements.

Wood said the changes were long overdue.

"We've had the case in the past where people have transferred over, they might have worked for a company for ten years, they've built up a certain level of leave and a certain level of pay and they just go back to square one.

"It just doesn't seem fair or right for people who are generally not on good terms or conditions to begin with," he said.

E tū team leader Yvette Taylor wanted the changes made quickly.

"All the time security contracts are changing, so this is affecting people right now, we want the government to deliver on this as soon as possible, so as many security guards can have that security at work," she said.

Wood said there first needed to be consultation with the industry, workers and the union, to get the wording right before making changes to the law in March, coming into force mid-2021.

"As a matter of good practice, we say 'let's give it a couple of months' so people can become aware of the new law before it takes effect, so that's what takes us through to the middle of 2021," he said.

Security Association chief executive Gary Morrison said he was not against the changes, but he was unsure they were needed as improvements had already been made within the industry in recent years.

Instead, his big concern was how it would be enforced.

"There are a lot of good employers out there, there are a few ratbags as an industry and we are not sure this will necessarily address the ones who don't look after their staff fairly," he said.

Morrison hopes the government will have the workforce in place to ensure there's an even playing field for those who do stick to the rules.

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