TIERED PAY SYSTEM

Guards' wage model 'different'

Their pay structure may differ from cleaners' as overtime work is common

The wage model for the security sector may be different from that for the cleaning sector when it is eventually legislated by law.

This is because the model will have to take into account overtime pay, said security firms and industry players.

Unlike cleaners, who work 44-hour weeks, guards typically work 72 hours each week, or 12-hour shifts each day over six days.

Although the Manpower Ministry's latest wage data showed the guards' basic monthly salary of $800 is lower than the cleaners' $850, their gross monthly salary is much higher at $1,700 because of overtime pay.

"It is slightly more complicated (working out a wage model) because of the nature of the industry, where overtime is more prevalent," said labour MP Zainal Sapari, who is spearheading the implementation of the progressive wage model to bring up low-wage workers' pay.

Mr Zainal said it is important to look at a guard's overall monthly pay package because that matters to most, adding there could be two options for guards - they can work the same 72-hour week for higher monthly pay, or reduce the hours of overtime work without having to suffer a pay cut.

His comments came one day after the Government announced on Wednesday it would amend the law to make it compulsory for cleaning firms to pay cleaners a basic monthly wage of at least $1,000 from September.

A committee of government officials, unionists and employers will negotiate a tiered-salary scale for cleaners, and firms will be required by law to pay those salaries. Cleaning firms that do not comply can have their licences to operate revoked.

The security sector is next in line, although no implementation date was set.

The Government added that the targeted move to raise the salaries of cleaners and guards does not amount to setting a national minimum wage.

Mr Zainal, who is in the committee drawing up the salaries for guards, declined to be drawn into saying what the salary structure might be.

The Straits Times understands the committee has not started discussing the structure yet.

Security firms were divided on whether the focus should be on raising pay or reducing overtime work. Some said it was not up to them.

"We can only wait to see what is announced. It is not like we have a choice," said a director of a security firm who declined to be named.

But Mr Paul Lim, chief executive of security firm Soverus, said the "ridiculous" levels of overtime work should be cut first.

"It is the biggest obstacle stopping people from joining the sector, worsening the manpower shortage," he said.

tohyc@sph.com.sg