Friday 31 October 2014

Security guards to get better salary, training with Progressive Wage Model

Move comes after mounting concerns over cheap sourcing, long overtime hours
By Xue Jianyue, TODAY, 30 Oct 2014

Come September 2016, security officers will see basic starting monthly wages increase by about one third and clearer pathways for training and career progression, when the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) is adopted as a licensing requirement for the security sector.

The Government’s move to mandate the model as part of licensing requirements — in line with recommendations by the Security Tripartite Cluster (STC) — comes after months of foot-dragging by the sector in adopting the model, as concerns mounted over cheap sourcing and long overtime hours.

It comes two months after a mandatory licensing scheme — of which the PWM is also a requirement — came into effect in the cleaning sector.

Under the PWM, the basic monthly salary for a full-time security officer would be S$1,100. Currently, the median monthly basic pay of a full-time security officer is about S$800. An officer can earn about S$2,000 after overtime pay and other allowances.

There are about 33,000 active security officers in Singapore, of which 29,000 are Singapore citizens and permanent residents. Part-time security officers, which unionist Hareenderpal Singh said forms 30 per cent of all active security officers, will not be placed on the wage ladder. Instead, the STC recommended that their basic wages be pro-rated based on the number of hours worked as compared to a full timer’s typical contractual hours.

Speaking today (Oct 29) after the release of the STC’s recommendations, NTUC assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari said the model would have a spillover effect on the part-timers. “More importantly, what we are hoping for, (is that) it will attract licensed security officers that are not working in the security industry to actually come in.”

Mr Singh, who is president of the Union of Security Employees, said there is an increasing trend of security officers switching from full-time to part-time work as they prefer the flexibility and work-life balance, worsening the manpower shortage. A typical shift for a full-time officer is about 12 hours.

He hopes the recommendations, which aim to provide better pay and working hours, can draw younger workers to the workforce and rejuvenate the industry.

The new five-level career progression model will have specific training requirements pegged to the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications framework for the security sector. The STC has recommended a starting monthly basic wage for security officers of S$1,100, which can increase up to more than S$1,700 as an officer becomes better skilled, more productive and takes on more responsibilities.

The Government had announced in January that the PWM would be made mandatory for the cleaning and security sector, which had long been plagued by stagnant wages. However, security firms had resisted the move, leading to long-drawn negotiations over the level of wages to be set for each level of the PWM, and the accompanying training criteria. Employers also said it was a challenge freeing up staff for training because of a shortage of manpower.

Taking into account feedback from industry players, the Government has provided a lead time of two years — until September 2016 — for the industry to comply with the PWM training and wage requirements.

“Security agencies and service buyers are encouraged to factor in any anticipated cost increases when tendering for new contracts or renewing existing contracts,” said the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Manpower, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency and the police in a joint statement.

The PWM, said Mr Zainal, would ensure there will be a baseline for wage-setting when security firms bid for contracts. The model will also offer a career path for security officers where the salary earned will commensurate with level of responsibility, productivity and training received, he added.

Security agencies that do not comply with the requirements may not have their licences renewed. More details on the new licensing condition will be released next year.

Other recommendations by the STC — released in a report today — include making working hours more sustainable. It is considering recommending measures to reduce overtime hours to the permissible 72 hours under the Employment Act in 2017. On average, security officers currently clock up to approximately 95 overtime hours each month.

The STC also recommended agencies and their clients work on performance-based contracts, improve and redesign job processes, implement efficient manpower deployment, and invest significantly in technology and productivity enhancement.

To help the sector enhance their productivity and adopt the PWM, the Employment and Employability Institute has launched a new S$5 million Inclusive Growth Programme, to help fund productivity projects.

Cost of security set to rise ahead of new wage rules
Labour crunch already forcing firms to raise pay
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 31 Oct 2014

NEW rules that mandate higher salaries for security guards may kick in only in two years' time, but condo dwellers should be prepared to pay more to their security firms as soon as the contract is renewed.

That is because some firms are already paying their staff higher wages because of a labour crunch.

Others feel that the two-year window to adjust to a new wage ladder will give time for their clients to prepare for costlier security services when contracts are renewed.

Most security firms see their costs going up and feel they will have to pass these on to their clients.

From September 2016, firms will have to pay their guards according to a wage ladder that sets the minimum monthly basic pay at $1,100, up from the median $800 or so in monthly wages currently. Supervisors will receive a minimum monthly basic salary of $1,500.

At least one firm has started paying its guards $1,100 since last month for new contracts.

"The guards compare (salaries), so we need to pay well if we want to attract them," said Mr Ratan Singh, managing director of White Knight Security Services.

For other firms, the two-year window will give them time to discuss with their clients about budgeting more for security services.

"Contracts are typically two to three years long," said Mr Alvin Lee, managing director of Reachfield Security and Safety Management.

Mr Govin Manu, operations director of Pedro Investigation and Security Services, said a firm's ability to pay the staff depended on whether their clients are willing to pay more for security services.

"Labour costs make up 80 to 85 per cent of costs," he said, adding: "Raising salaries without adjusting contract values will hurt the bottom line."

The new wage ladder announced on Wednesday came after more than one year of negotiations between the National Trades Union Congress and security associations and firms. A source said that the September 2016 implementation was a compromise reached between both parties.

Checks with security firms found that many are already paying about $1,000 each month in basic pay to attract guards, even before the new wage ladder was announced.

There are 29,000 Singaporeans and 4,000 Malaysians working as guards, but industry experts say there is still a shortage of at least 10,000. To make up for the shortfall, guards typically work 12 hours a day, six days a week, with the bulk of their monthly salary from overtime pay.

Security firm Soverus started paying its full-time guards $1,057 in monthly basic pay this year.

"My monthly salary bill is about a million dollars," said its chief executive, Mr Paul Lim, whose firm has more than 400 full-time and 400 part-time guards.

But guards say that two years is too long to wait for a pay hike.

"Morale will be affected," said 59-year-old Edmund Chua, a guard for more than 10 years, who earns $1,000 in monthly basic pay, which means a gross salary of $1,800 with overtime.

Another guard, 50-year-old Uma Magasvary, who earns $1,800 a month with overtime, added: "Things are getting expensive, so I hope to get a pay rise next year."

Unfair practice in security industry

FOR a long time, it has been the industry practice for security agencies to enforce a "mandatory" 12-hour day or night shift on their employees ("Higher wages for security guards from September 2016"; Thursday).

One needs only to look at the agencies' recruitment advertisements to know that such a practice is prevalent.

This practice seems unfair as many security guards yearn for shorter working hours in order to have more family time, and they should be allowed to opt for this.

Having enough rest would allow them to stay alert while on duty.

Not everyone wants higher pay at the expense of work-life balance.

Syed Abdul Muneef Syed Muhammad
ST Forum, 1 Nov 2014

Improving security staff's working conditions

THE Union of Security Employees (USE) is aware of the low basic pay and long working hours our security officers currently face ("Unfair practice in security industry" by Mr Syed Abdul Muneef Syed Muhammad; last Saturday).

The recently launched Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for the security industry was developed to help address these challenges, by creating a road map to raise basic wages, skills and productivity, and ensure meaningful career progression for our security officers.

The USE is part of the Security Tripartite Cluster (STC), a tripartite committee comprising representatives from security agencies, service buyers, the relevant ministries and the union to look at the pay and working conditions of our security officers.

As announced, the STC will review excessive overtime hours in due course. We fully agree with Mr Syed that having enough rest would allow security officers to stay alert while on duty and enjoy better work-life balance.

Security officers should have the option of working shorter hours, and we are heartened that there are progressive and responsible security agencies which are already taking steps towards reducing excessive overtime hours.

We also note that some of these agencies are already providing basic pay above the recommended basic of $1,100.

Security officers may get in touch with the USE on 6334-6393 to seek assistance on looking for employment which offers shorter or more flexible working hours. With the implementation of the PWM for the security industry, USE is committed to helping our security officers lead better lives, not just in terms of better wages, skill sets and career paths, but also in terms of good balance between work and family.

Hareenderpal Singh
Union of Security Employees
ST Forum, 5 Nov 2014

Problems with security industry proposals

AT FIRST glance, the security tripartite cluster's proposals appear to belatedly uplift the welfare of security officers ("Higher wages for security guards from September 2016"; Oct 30), but a closer look will reveal flaws.

First, while the minimum monthly basic wage of security guards will rise by 37.5 per cent in 2016, the hiring fee has been increasing since the progressive wage model was first mentioned a year ago. This is unfair to both the security guards and service buyers.

Second, there is no real wage increment if security agencies move the common reimbursements for transport, laundry and meals into the basic wage.

Third, while there is concern about long working hours, the security tripartite cluster provides no concrete ideas to resolve this.

Allowing overtime exemptions to continue is tantamount to bending the Employment Act. Such exemptions are allowed only as a temporary measure, and the tripartite cluster should advise the Ministry of Manpower to stop allowing them.

Fourth, there is no proposal on how real productivity can be achieved through the adoption of technological innovations or redesigning workflows in the industry.

The tripartite cluster recommended a career progression plan that breaks down a single guard's job into five parts that require more than one person. This hair-splitting creates unproductive subdivisions of work, aggravating the manpower shortage.

Fifth, the current system of grading security agencies has created imbalances. A "Grade A" agency charges about $1,000 more than a "Grade C" one. Regardless of the grading, all agencies must pay the market rate to attract the right number of security guards.

Lastly, the tripartite cluster team includes only representatives of Grade A agencies. Some representation from agencies with different grades would ensure a balanced mix of perspectives, which would yield more useful recommendations.

Ling Poon Wah (Ms)
ST Forum, 17 Nov 2014

What security industry proposals aim to achieve

IN DEVELOPING its proposals, the Security Tripartite Cluster (STC) engaged stakeholders, including the majority of security agencies ("Problems with security industry proposals" by Ms Ling Poon Wah; Monday). The two security associations in the STC also have members of varying sizes and grades.

Many security officers are deployed in roles larger than what they were trained for, and are not adequately remunerated. The STC's Progressive Wage Model (PWM) addresses this, providing a clear pathway for security officers to progress to higher wages as they become more skilled and productive to handle greater job responsibilities.

The STC recommended raising the entry-level basic wage of security officers to $1,100, recognising that employers could move reimbursements into the basic wage. This achieves a better balance between basic and variable pay components and allows security officers to receive higher overtime (OT) pay and employers' Central Provident Fund contributions. All else being constant, their gross monthly salaries will rise from the current median of $1,700 to over $1,900.

The STC recognises that excessive OT must be addressed to ensure better work-life balance for security officers. Today, employers requiring their employees to work more than 72 OT hours a month must apply to the Ministry of Manpower for an exemption, without which they will be in breach of the Employment Act.

As doing away with OT exemptions at this time will cause a shortage of man-hours required for delivery of security services, the STC decided to consider in due course recommending an end to OT exemptions after monitoring the PWM's impact on the manpower situation. In the interim, the enhanced wages may improve recruitment and retention of manpower, thus enlarging the manpower pool, and paving the way for removal of OT exemptions.

There are funding schemes in place to help firms raise productivity and eventually reduce excessive reliance on manpower, including a dedicated $5 million scheme for the industry by NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute.

Between now and September 2016, when the PWM becomes a licensing condition, security agencies and buyers are encouraged to incorporate anticipated cost increases when bidding for or renewing contracts.

Lastly, buyers would likely be willing to pay more for better standards and quality offered by well-graded agencies. The PWM hopes to ensure buyers get the value they pay for, and security officers are paid appropriately for their work.

Zainal Sapari
Security Tripartite Cluster
ST Forum, 22 Nov 2014

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