Security Licensing Survey
When the Tory-led coalition Government announced sweeping changes to the security licensing system, a wave of concern swept through the industry. GMB, with thousands of security officer members, fought long and hard for the introduction of licensing, and immediately warned that scrapping checks would send the industry back to the days when unscrupulous security firms would employ anybody, regardless of their background or character.
GMB members in the security industry know that it has improved beyond recognition as a result of the introduction of licensing. GMB security members take great pride in the role which their union played in establishing the licensing regime. Nobody would benefit from the industry being infiltrated, once again, by the type of cowboy operators which licensing succeeded in driving out.
Following opposition from GMB, security employers and the Security Industry Authority (SIA), the Government backed down on its initial plans to scrap security licences altogether. Instead, discussions are taking place on how to modify the current licensing system, with changes to be introduced after the 2012 Olympics. GMB is the only trade union on the strategic review body which will help to shape the new regime.
Unlike the Government, the SIA or the security companies, GMB decided to ask the people who matter most, security officers who work on the frontline, what they think about the licensing system. GMB members work throughout the industry - in cash handling, guarding, CCTV, door supervision or patrol and response. They all have experience of the SIA licensing system which regulates their work. These members know better than anybody how licensing has driven up standards in the industry, and they know how much there is to lose if changes are introduced which could decimate the industry they work in.
Security employees are obliged by law to obtain an SIA licence before they can work in the industry - they deserve a say in decisions about their future. Only GMB was prepared to give security officers a voice, by conducting one of the most extensive surveys of members’ opinions that the Union has ever undertaken. Thousands of GMB members who work on a daily basis as front-line security officers responded, returning questionnaires through the post or via GMB’s website.
Here’s what GMB’s security membership said about licensing:
Independent licensing is essential There was overwhelming support in favour of an independent licensing system amongst GMB members employed in the security industry. A massive 92% believe that this is essential. GMB security members think the independent system is fair, tried and trusted, and understood by employers and employees alike.
"It is essential to have one independent body, such as the SIA, looking after the security industry. It has vastly improved the whole industry. It has a recognised and high profile image throughout the whole system, covering guards, cash in transit, cctv personnel and door supervision. Do not let the cowboy firms get a foot in the door."
"The SIA don’t discriminate and deal with each licence application on merit. If the industry isn’t properly regulated cowboy firms will undercut the responsible ones by employing untrained and unsuitable staff. The system would be open to abuse."
"If companies handle their own licensing, criminals will get licences and anybody will be able to do security work again. There will not be enough checks, as there are now, and we will go back to the ‘bouncer’ days. I am proud to be a Security Officer and that would be disgraceful."
A single licence should be sufficient The vast majority of GMB members who hold SIA licences believe that a single licence (rather than the multiple licences which some are currently required to hold) should be sufficient. 71% hold this view.
"There are so many licences and the cost is heavy. I have had to make choices about which ones to go for, which has limited my ability to get trained and find work in some roles which I know I would be capable of."
The question of how frequently security licences should have to be renewed divided GMB’s security membership. 45% of those who responded think that there should be no requirement to renew an existing licence at three-yearly intervals.
"The licence should only have to be obtained once. If you violate the rules of the licence then you should have it revoked, and have to re-apply."
However, 50% thought that the licence should have to be renewed every three years.
"Three-yearly renewals may be a nuisance, but they keep everyone in check. The reviews are needed because of the possibility that the licence holder has got criminal convictions. However, the cost of renewing a licence should be cheaper than it is at present."
Licences are currently too expensive
Two-thirds of GMB members (66%) who need to obtain a security licence think they are too expensive. This applies to both the original licence and the renewal cost.
"Why can’t there be a lower fee for renewal than for the original licence application? Surely an admin fee, maybe £50, would be more reasonable than the current cost."
Employers should help pay for the licence
78% of GMB security members believe that their employer should either pay the full cost of, or part of the cost of, the licence that they need in order to work in the industry. At present, some companies do pay or contribute towards the cost, but many don’t.
"Grandfather rights" should apply under the new system A very clear majority (72%) of GMB members working in security believe that the accreditation and qualifications which they have already obtained should be ‘carried over’ and remain valid under any new licensing system.
Government should listen to security workers and GMB, their union Security industry employees were delighted to be asked what they thought. The huge response to the survey was evidence of that. Many expressed the view that the Government and the SIA should also listen to those who work in the industry and co-operate more closely with GMB to improve the current system.
"The SIA should set the standard for all the different security companies. I don’t mind paying for the licence but want to see improvements. We want to see the SIA work more closely with GMB, the union we know and trust."
"If licensing is handed back to companies, cowboy firms will operate, causing more problems to be solved. This Government should talk to and listen to Security Officers who have experience in the industry. They may learn a thing or two."
The results of this extensive survey – the only one which has asked people who work in the security industry what they think about licensing - were discussed by delegates to GMB’s Security Conference in January. The Conference gave authority to GMB representatives on the body reviewing the licensing regime to use the survey results as the basis for future negotiations.
Bill Butler, Chief Executive of the SIA, and senior management representatives from several major security companies were also present at the Conference to hear the thoughts of the most important people in the debate – the GMB members who work as security officers and are required to hold a licence. The employers and the SIA should also heed the clear message from the GMB survey. The strategic review body must listen and act upon the views expressed by those who work on the frontline in security. When given a voice, thousands of GMB members participated and grasped the opportunity to have their say. Their views must now influence the shape of the new security licensing system.