Cost of security set to rise ahead of new wage rules for security guards

-- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA; ST GRAPHICS
-- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA; ST GRAPHICS
The new wage ladder sets the minimum monthly basic pay for guards at $1,100, up from the median $800 or so a month currently. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The new wage ladder sets the minimum monthly basic pay for guards at $1,100, up from the median $800 or so a month currently. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Labour crunch already forcing firms to raise pay

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."

tohyc@sph.com.sg