Security officers have been routinely making the news over the past year – From verbal and physical altercations with individuals over COVID-19 safe distancing measures and other private property-related issues to compensation-related matters.
While many have expressed their appreciation towards security officers, especially now, the challenges faced by those in this industry are all too real.
Earlier this year, the Union of Security Employees (USE) and the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) randomly surveyed 707 security officers to evaluate the 3Ws of the security industry, namely wages, welfare and work prospects.
USE and the tripartite partners have been constantly pushing for improvements in the sector for the last 20 years, and this survey was aimed at uncovering the changes that have occurred so far.
The survey included topics such as compensation and benefits; workplace conditions and dynamics; knowledge of labour laws; knowledge of the use of technology; and perceived public attitudes towards security officers.
Here are some of the findings that the survey revealed.
- Job Satisfaction
In a surprising display of tenacity and resilience, 8 out of 10 of the survey respondents stated that they found their roles meaningful and that they were satisfied with their profession – despite the challenges they face.
With job satisfaction, USE believes that this would be a good gateway to lay a progression path for security officers’ careers, perhaps even beyond security and into the built environment.
- Higher Wages for Security Officers
Long gone are the days when security officers earned a mere salary of $600 to $800, thanks to the mandatory Progressive Wage Model (PWM).
The survey found that security officers now earn a median monthly basic wage (excluding overtime pay and allowances) of $1,420 and that their average take-home pay (less CPF deduction) was about $1,975.
With that said, the survey also found that the basic wages received by security officers were mostly above the prescribed Progressive Wage Model (PWM), an indication that the tripartite effort has affected change on the wages in the sector.
While many security officers surveyed reported to receive basic wages above the prescribed base in the PWM, much work still needs to be done as their wages are still below the national median.
And the Not So Good
- High Percentage of Abuse
About one in three of the respondents indicated that they had faced some form of abuse at their workplace. The abuse could be verbal or physical.
More shockingly, the survey uncovered that the older the officer was, the more likely he or she would experience abuse.
Labour Member of Parliament and NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Patrick Tay, who was present when the survey findings were announced through the virtual media conference, expressed his surprise at the figure.
He said: “When I saw this data, I was quite shocked. I have anecdotally heard of cases but one in three is quite shocking.”
Mr Tay further elaborated that while he was glad that in 2014, the Protection from Harassment (Public Service Worker) was enacted to include private security officers, it had its limitations.
“I am glad that an announcement was finally made, after many years of lobbying, that the administration was already looking at reviewing the Private Security Act, for greater protection of our security officers come next year,” he said.
It is also worthy to mention that there is help out there for officers who face abuse. They can write to firstname.lastname@example.org to report any form of abuse they encounter while on duty.
These cases will be routed to USE’s mediation service at its Customer Service Centre for assessment and follow-up.
Depending on the case, the officers will get assistance such as mediation, legal advice, medical leave application, medical claims or even the changing of work location or roles.
Many are Given Non-Security Tasks
One in four officers surveyed stated that they had been tasked to do non-security related duties.
These include receiving and disseminating deliveries from their stations, to fixing faulty amenities around the facility.
Through this finding, USE has developed into their agency transformation framework, a component that would see security officers trained in basic non-security related skill sets such as building service skills, basic lift rescue management and fire safety certification.
This would see officers armed with complementary skills certification to perform their duties and more, thus helping them justify and command better remuneration.
Working Hours are Still Long
Minus the one-hour lunch break, the typical office worker spends around eight hours a day at work.
Security officers, on the other hand, spend an average of 11 hours a day on the job, with the survey reporting their weekly work hours anywhere between 52 to 62 hours.
Two years ago, the Government had accepted the Security Tripartite Cluster’s recommendation to remove the overtime exemption (OTE) in the industry. This was in a bid to improve the working conditions of security officers. The change will take effect from January 2021.
According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the lead time of three years will allow the industry to transform its operations, and adjust work patterns.
When the OTE removal takes effect, all exemptions will be issued on a case-by-case basis only to meet short-term needs, subject to assessment by MOM.
Mindsets Need to Change
USE Executive Secretary Steve Tan summed up in his concluding statement during the briefing, on what needed to be done to improve the security industry.
He stated: “We in society, have to do a lot more. The older you are, the more likely you are to face abuse speaks a lot about our country.”
He further elaborated that while security agencies needed to work with the union to support agency transformation, buyers of security services needed to change their mindsets as well
He said: “If they insist on buying solely on manpower and the lowest cost basis; we [the security industry] will never be able to transform.”
“Society, as a whole, needs to change our mindsets. If we recognise that security officers are essential workers and that they do important work, let’s give them the respect that they deserve.”