Saturday, 25 November 2017

Basic pay for security guards to go up by $300 by 2021, limit on overtime hours

Higher wages, less overtime work ahead for security officers
Basic pay to rise by around $300 between 2019 and 2021; firms won't be allowed to apply for overtime extensions
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 24 Nov 2017

Security guards will be paid more while working fewer overtime hours each month in future.

Their basic pay will increase by around $300 between 2019 and 2021.

After that, they will receive an annual basic pay increment of at least 3 per cent, under recommendations accepted by the Government yesterday.

All security guards will also be allowed to put in a maximum of only 72 overtime hours a month.

The current practice - in which security companies apply for overtime exemptions so that their employees can work past this limit - will be discontinued from 2021.

The higher basic pay and subsequent annual increments are meant to offset the cap on overtime hours.

Security agencies must adopt the recommendations from Jan 1, 2019.

The Security Tripartite Cluster (STC) yesterday unveiled details of its proposals, which were made to draw younger Singaporeans to a sector facing growing demand, with more buildings and infrastructure being constructed amid the rising threat of terrorism.

STC chairman Zainal Sapari, assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, said security guards surveyed often cite excessive working hours as a reason for leaving the industry.

"To attract young people or make it practical for older people to join the industry, reducing overtime is something that must be done," he said, adding that guards also need enough rest to do their job well.

The changes will benefit more than 34,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents working as security guards.

They follow a review of the progressive wage model in the security industry - a wage ladder that aims to raise the salaries of low-wage workers through skills upgrading and improvements in productivity.

It is compulsory for companies licensed in the cleaning, security and landscape sectors to adopt the wage model. This specifies a starting wage of at least $1,100 a month for security guards, with salaries starting from $1,300 and more for those who are higher-skilled.

Their pay has risen since 2014, when the wage model was introduced, said the STC. It became mandatory in September last year.

Between 2014 and last year, the median basic wage of full-time security guards grew by 23 per cent per year. It was $1,300 in June last year.

With the changes, their basic monthly wages will go up by $75 in 2019 and 2020, followed by a $150 raise in 2021.

Those in senior ranks will see a total increase of $285 in monthly pay: $60 more for the first two years, followed by a $165 raise in 2021.

The security sector has the highest average figure of weekly overtime hours per worker, said a 2014 report by the STC, which mooted removing overtime exemptions. Security guards clock as many as 95 hours of overtime work each month.

Currently, overtime exemption is not given for certain types of work, such as those that require continuous and manual operation of machinery, or work at elevated heights.

The STC recommended an annual wage increase of at least 3 per cent from 2022 to 2024, subject to review, to ensure that security guards do not see their pay stagnate at the minimum level stipulated by the wage ladder.

The STC also urged security agencies to start planning early and work with their customers to review their operations and manpower needs.

It suggested that companies adopt technological solutions that can help reduce their reliance on manpower, but still allow them to keep premises secure.

Changes for a senior security officer


$2,272 a month, including $1,300 basic pay


12 hours a day, six days a week


$2,483 a month, including $1,585 basic pay


12 hours a day, alternating between a five-day and six-day work week

Guards welcome move but customers worry about costs
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 24 Nov 2017

Senior security officer Mohamed Alfie Idris, 38, clocked eight-hour shifts and worked five days a week in his previous job as a cafe supervisor.

He now works 12-hour shifts, six days a week, as a security guard at a condominium in Petir Road. "I only get to spend quality time with my wife on my days off," he said.

But he should be able to spend more time at home from 2021, when security companies can no longer apply for exemptions to allow guards to work up to 95 hours of overtime a month.

The legal maximum is 72 hours.

Other security guards also welcomed the move to reduce their working hours, announced yesterday. In other changes, the minimum pay for security guards will also be raised from 2019 under the progressive wage model.

Security companies say the wage increases and cut in overtime hours for guards will drive up costs.

Mr Pierce Ang, deputy managing director of Pico Guards, which employs around 600 security guards, said the costs of hiring one will likely go up by about 10 per cent for building and facilities managers who contract their services. "The impact will probably (be on) the buyer," he said.

Security firms will have to adopt technology to reduce the reliance on manpower and reduce net costs, he added, citing the use of video analytics to detect abnormalities such as illegal parking, smoking or intrusions.

A job that requires 12 man-hours can be reduced to requiring just one hour in this manner, he said.

"But some buyers may have reservations and feel that having actual eyes and men on the ground to intervene in an emergency situation is better," he added.

When asked, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) said exceptions to the overtime rule may be made for major events requiring heavy security.

A spokesman for Certis Cisco, which employs more than 5,000 security guards, said security service buyers will have to work closely with agencies to find a combination of technology and boots on the ground that works for them.

Security Tripartite Cluster chairman Zainal Sapari said his group is working with MOM to help buyers source for technology providers. There are grants available to support this, he added.

Customers like commercial building managers and condominium management council members voiced worries about rising costs.

CapitaLand Singapore property services head Alfred Lim said security makes up a significant proportion - about 10 per cent to 20 per cent - of operating expenses. He is looking at sharing security services across company buildings that are near one another to reduce costs.

But Mr S.K. Cheah, a Management Corporation Strata Title council member, said technology may not be able to replace guards in patrolling certain problem spots and identifying strangers.

If more guards are needed due to the shorter working hours, residents may have to pay more in maintenance fees eventually, he added.

Better working conditions will hopefully attract more young people, said security supervisor Peter Lim, 62, who works at a commercial building in Middle Road.

"If we use more cameras, I don't have to climb up and down the stairs so many times every day," he said. "But some older colleagues may complain about using technology because they are not used to it."

Additional reporting by Yuen Sin

Securing the lot of the security guard
The Straits Times, 1 Dec 2017

Along with cleaners, security officers have found themselves struggling at the bottom of the wage ladder. This is so despite the essential work that both groups do. The wage depression of cleaners, evident from 2001 to 2010, has been reversed gradually. Their prospects received a boost last year following recommendations of a pay rise made by the Tripartite Cluster for Cleaners. Now, the Security Tripartite Cluster has unveiled details of its proposals that will see security officers being paid more, while working fewer overtime hours each month, in the future. Their basic pay will go up by around $300 by 2021, and they will receive an annual increment of at least 3 per cent in the three years after that. All security officers will be allowed to put in a maximum of only 72 overtime hours a month.

It is only fair that workers in this sector - which places a premium on physical ability and mental alertness - should not have to depend excessively on overtime pay. Instead, basic pay and increments should provide reasonable overall wages. Indeed, given that long working hours are often cited as a reason for workers leaving the industry, the recommendations address a key concern in a sector whose importance can only grow with the need for Singapore to be vigilant against security threats such as terrorism. Fatigue and low morale are chinks in a national armour that must be strong enough to deter insidious attacks.

The work of the tripartite clusters draws attention to the role of low-income workers in the economy. They would never be able to beat the odds on their own were their fortunes to be left entirely to the demand-supply trajectories of the market economy. Supply is bound to be plentiful in these sectors given the relatively low skill barriers to entry. Demand, too, has responded to the vicissitudes of a market where competition has driven companies into a race to the bottom to win tenders. Some cleaners, for example, found their pay and benefits, like paid leave, falling back to the minimum level when there was a change in service providers or when contracts with service buyers, like building owners, were renewed.

Such "resets", over which employees have no control, placed an unfair burden on them. The progressive wage model offers a structural answer to the predicament of workers in the cleaning, landscape and security sectors by raising their salaries through skills upgrading and improvements in productivity. This way, the model also serves to set higher standards in industries and to point them in the direction of necessary and sustainable change. The review of the model in the security sector will benefit more than 34,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents. It underlines the meaningful difference that tripartism can make to the everyday lives of some of Singapore's most vulnerable workers.

Progressive Wage Model for the security sector
Government Accepts Recommendations to Enhance Progressive Wage Model for Security Industry and Remove Overtime Exemption -23 Nov 2017

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