Private security unions are demanding a salary adjustment to R7 500 for the lowest-paid category of Grade C officers. Picture: Itumeleng English / African News Agency (ANA)

PRETORIA - The Association of Private Security Owners of South Africa (Tapsosa) says calls for a strike in the industry are irresponsible, as lives and property will be further exposed to criminals.

Tapsosa president Jones Maphalaphathwa told the African News Agency (ANA) that a full-blown private security industry strike could leave a trail of destruction similar to 2006, when more than 60 people were killed during a violent, prolonged security industry strike.

"I don’t support the calls for the strike. Remember the 2006 strike, where a number of security officials lost their lives. I still think we can engage as a sector and come up with a solution to suit both parties, other than the strike. I think if we can invite other stakeholders in these negotiations, including the government as the major stakeholders in the sector and become as inclusive as possible, we can find a common ground," said Maphalaphathwa.

"The manner it [the ongoing negotiation process] is being handled now is honestly not proper. I don’t know why these minority groups would want to claim to own the industry that is this huge with so much impact in the economy of the country."

Private security unions are engaged in intensive mediation, in a bid to prevent a full-blown strike after wage negotiations with employers collapsed last month.

Parties failed to reach an amicable solution through negotiations, with employers' unions saying workers’ demands were unrealistic. The national wage negotiation process kicked off in August.

Nine unions have rejected the five percent salary offer presented by the South African National Security Employers’ Association and the Security Association of South Africa at the bargaining council for the private security sector.

Employers offered an above-inflation increase of five percent for a Grade C security officer, with a rand or value equivalent increase for the higher level grades in each respective year for three years. 

Maphalaphathwa said that unfortunately the bargaining council negotiations were "not inclusive".

"The thing is, the negotiations were between the unions with the bargaining council and the minority group representing employers. The majority of employers are not represented in this forum, and the manner in which these negotiations were handled, we think that it’s not proper, because although there was a premature pronouncement of the strike by the unions, silence from the minority group representing employers is deafening," Maphalaphathwa said.

"This silence has caused a lot of confusion to the majority of employers, employees, and clients, which is a concern to Tapsosa. We have always been objecting to the formulation of the council, because it is not inclusive; there are a number of unions that are not represented there as well. There are a number of clips in circulation pronouncing on the strike and we are getting enquiries every day, from clients and our members... unfortunately we have no answers for them."

Private security industry workers are demanding a salary adjustment to R7500 for the lowest-paid category of Grade C officers, R8000 for Grade B, and R8500 for Grade A officers. Currently, security officers are paid R4377, R4981, and R5558, respectively. In addition, unions are demanding the introduction of hospital cover, towards which employers will contribute 60 percent "to ensure workers have access to better health care facilities".

The private security industry in South Africa is a central player in the safety of citizens, employing about half a million officers, compared to around 200,000 members of the South African Police Service (SAPS). The alarmingly high crime rate in South Africa has resulted in more citizens relying on private security services.

The R45 billion private security sector has guards manning shopping malls, public facilities such as hospitals, the mining industry, residential clusters, and parking lots across the country. A third session of the mediation process is set for Wednesday.

African News Agency