Employers say otherwise 

Security service: With about seven security guards leaving their job every month, Jachung and Elite Security Service providers are grappling with the issue of retaining trained guards.

Records with Jachung Security Services (JSS) show that 87 guards left last year. Elite Security Services (ESS) officials said about 100 employees left between 2014-15.

The high attrition rate is attributed to the poor salary against the long working hours. Better prospects or higher studies, inadequate growth opportunities and job profile are other reasons.

JSS pays their guards a basic monthly salary of Nu 3,750 besides a housing allowance of Nu 1,250. ESS pays Nu 6,000 basic salary. Both the companies charge about Nu 10,000 to Nu 11,000 a month to the company or agency that hire the service of the trained guards.

JSS guards sign a two-year contract upon the completion of the training while the ESS guards sign 18-months contract. They are entitled to Nu 23 and Nu 19 per hour as overtime payment. JSS trains about 150 to 200 guards in a year while ESS has trained about 400 guards since it started in 2012.

Company officials said their employees are entitled provident fund (PF), gratuity and insurance schemes, among others in line with the Labour Act.

Guards’ grievances

A female JSS guard is not sure if she would continue with the job. She gets a salary of Nu 8,000 inclusive of four hours overtime daily. She has signed a contract for two years. “It’s difficult surviving with this salary having to pay about Nu 4,000 as house rent alone,” she said.

Another JSS guard said that he had left the job before completion of the contract term but had to return after the office traced him to his village.

“As I couldn’t refund, I had to complete the remaining contract term,” he said, adding that it was better to toil the fields than work on such a meager salary.

Some guards from ESS said they are not paid on time and that they are not sure of the deductions, if any, as they are never issued a pay slip. They also said that they don’t get leave. “We work 12 hours a day most of the time.”

Another guard said that he gets a monthly salary of about Nu 7,700 including overtime payment. “I want to quit as soon as my contract ends. I can’t survive here,” he said. “I can’t imagine life after I get married.”

It’s not only salary

JSS’s Chief Executive Officer Palden Dorji agreed that the salary is low. Besides the issues of salary, he said, the working condition especially in winters and some opting for higher studies were other reasons.

“We are trying to address the issue as best as we can,” he said, adding that JSS employees will get a salary revision of Nu 250 from next month.

“The attrition rate is high. It’s a tough job but they are paid well above the minimum wage,” Palden Dorji said. “Still it’s not enough so we encourage them to do overtime but there are some locations where they are not required to do overtime.”

JSS officials said their guards are entitled to gratuity after five years and yearly bonus schemes besides the annual increment of Nu 250.

“But for the guards, the take home salary matters more than long-term benefits,” Palden Dorji said.

JSS officials said that the revision of Nu 250 may not make much difference for an individual, but it had a huge cost implication on the company. Revision for 500 employees translates to Nu 185,000 a month or Nu 220,000 a year.

“To recover the cost, we’ve to pass it on to the clients but the clients are not willing to pay higher as they emphasise on the minimum daily wage,” Palden Dorji said, adding that he is already worried about the profitability of the company next year.

Although clients pay Nu 10,000 to Nu 11,000, Palden Dorji said that the company’s overhead cost was high as it started as a FDI company where they invested about half a million USD.

“And we are still paying the loan. If we had started as a local company, we wouldn’t have required such well-set infrastructure,” he said. “I’m worried if the Nu 250 revision would have the desired impact.”

ESS officials said that youth come for training as a last resort. They said the attrition rate was high among the educated guards as they are always on the look out for better prospects.

ESS’s chief security officer, Kezang Wangchuk said that as soon as guards get jobs elsewhere, they leave. “They are always looking for better option but not in terms of salary,” he said, adding that educated guards tend to look down on the job.

On the accusation of late payment, Kezang Wangchuk said that as a new company, initially there were issues. “Now we pay them before the 5th day of every month,” he said.

Similarly, he said the guards are entitled five days causal leave, paternity leave and medical leave besides three months maternity for female employees.

“They don’t get leave during the probation period of six months,” he said. Guards get unpaid emergency leave.

Labour ministry officials said they have no say as long as employees are paid the minimum monthly wage of Nu 3,750.

Kinga Dema