|Staffing has been an issue as guards exposed to Covid-19 patients are required to isolate. / Photo by blurAZ via Shutterstock|
With many businesses around the world temporarily or partially closed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, demand for security guards has increased. Their job descriptions have now expanded to include crowd control, temperature checks, and, in some cases, removing dead bodies from the morgue.
Security guards in high demand
According to a report published by Canadian news provider Kamloops This Week, the pandemic has opened 1,500 new jobs for security guards in Ontario and many of these are well-paying.
Jeff Ketelaars, secretary-treasurer of labor union United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), said that some of their union members who have been laid off from the hotel industry want to find jobs in security. However, this would be a challenge right now since the would-be security guards are still required to take license tests and government offices in their province are closed. Ketelaars said he already sent a message to the Premier of Ontario Doug Ford, urging for an alternative, such as the temporary online system introduced in Quebec.
Ketelaars went on to say that many Canadians would rather do social good, prefer to work or protect their neighborhoods and their family and friends than not work or just sit at home. Security guards in the country usually earn a minimum wage, making it difficult to justify working as one when the government provides an equivalent aid. Not to mention that the threat of Covid-19 has added stress to security guards.
The union’s secretary-treasurer also mentioned how the public has been “absolutely brutal” to security guards, so much so that there have been times they get assaulted at work. Their union had to intervene in a case in Ontario, where security guards were ordered to remove dead bodies from the hospital because the funeral home staff did not want to be exposed to the virus.
Security firm Garda World’s vice president for the Prairies Scott Young said that there were initial concerns as security guards did not report for work as they feared their safety, but Garda World worked to relieve their workers of these concerns. Young added that they are now seeing less of those incidents and security guards have been stepping up in a major way in Canada to fill the increasing demand in the job market.
Billable hours rose to 25%
Young said that the company has also been demanding from their clients to pay the wage premiums for their security guards. Some clients were able to do so while others have not. For now, the firm is doing everything it can to support the staff who are working in the front lines. Garda World’s billable hours in the past eight weeks have increased to 25% because of the need for security guards from hospitals and retail outlets far offset from the drop from airports and special events.
In the last two months, their security firm has also hired 2,500 staff, double than what it would normally hire covering the same period. Among the challenges they face, though, are non-violent crisis, handcuff, and first-aid being performed in-person. It has also become a new norm for the security guards to check the temperatures of people entering premises. Garda World has invested in equipment that can be integrated into card-access turnstiles and metal-detector archways in buildings.
|Opportunities within the security guard industry will continue to increase to help people feel safe under the constant threat of theft and burglary. / Photo by FrameStockFootages via Shutterstock|
More patrols needed as shoplifting cases increased
Calgary-based security consultant Glen Kitteringham also shares that security guards now have to do more patrols in empty buildings as visitors and employees are not around to help them report if there is anything suspicious in the area.
Kitteringham has also heard from his guard firm clients that shoplifting cases increased but the police have been understandably too preoccupied to be involved. Staffing has been an issue as guards exposed to Covid-19 patients are required to isolate. In a pool of a thousand security guards that represent his client base, about 130 to 180 have been asked not to work in the past six weeks alone.
The security consultant hopes there would be a newfound appreciation for these hardly noticeable workers. He believes the security guards bring value to the organization not just during emergencies but all the time.
Facing the threat of Covid-19
In Seattle, USA, a man identified as Sorng Sun allegedly spat on a security guard near a shopping center. Sun later tested positive for Covid-19. Investigators said that the security guard was monitoring the parking lot and noticed Sun was acting strangely, ripping up and throwing paper towels and trash onto the ground. The security guard video recorded Sun’s action using his cellphone but the man walked towards the security guard as he pulled out his pocket knife.
“He was spitting at the victim in this case, and it is unknown if he knew he was infected with the virus,” prosecutors of the case said. The security guard said he was spat on six to seven times when the fight ensued.
Security guards: statistics
Security guards in Canada are often employed by security agencies or directly by organizations, governments, or businesses to work in airports, museums or galleries, office buildings, factories, hotels, hospitals, retail stores, and banks. Most of them work full time, typically 40 hours a week. In British Columbia, one of the provinces and three territories that make up Canada, security guards can expect the highest wage of $24.04 per hour, a median of $14.28 per hour, and lowest at $12.65.
The region expects 33.1% (1,680) new job openings for security guards due to economic growth and 66.9% (3,400) for the replacement of retiring workers, according to data provided by the Vancouver Public Library’s Skilled Immigrant InfoCentre.
In the US, security guard and patrol services revenue in 2018 reached US$27.23 billion and $27.7 billion in 2019. The mean annual wage for security guards in the US is $30,730 or $14.78 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top-paying industry that employs security guards is natural gas distribution agencies, paying guards the annual mean wage of $59,290 but these jobs only make up 0.12% in the employment opportunities of the security guard industry.
Opportunities within the security guard industry will continue to increase to help people feel safe under the constant threat of theft and burglary. During the coronavirus outbreak, their help is also much needed to manage crowded aisles, jammed parking lots, and long lines in supermarkets.