1 in 3 security officers has experienced abuse, with verbal abuse the most common: Survey

The median basic pay excludes overtime wages and allowances. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - One in three security officers recently surveyed said they have experienced physical or verbal abuse or both in their course of work, with verbal abuse being the most common.

Also, the older a security officer, the more likely he is to experience abuse, the survey found.

The survey - the first public survey of its kind - is a collaboration between the Union of Security Employees (USE) and the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), to study the working conditions, well-being and salary issues of security officers.

A total of 707 security officers were interviewed between January and February this year. They were approached at USE while collecting their security officer identity cards, which are issued after they renew their licence every five years. USE, which is an affiliate of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), has about 14,800 members.

The survey came after several incidences of abuse and harassment of security officers in Singapore made waves online last year. Among them was the case of a security officer at Eight Riversuites condominium in Whampoa, who was abused by a resident upset that his guests had to pay parking fees at the residence last October.

In another case, an advertising firm owner punched a security officer in the carpark of Roxy Square shopping centre last April. The man was later jailed for assault.

USE executive secretary Steve Tan said the union has been tracking anecdotal feedback on abuse of security officers, and decided to collaborate with SUSS to find out the "real level" of abuse through an empirical study.

The findings were presented by Associate Professor Leong Chan-Hoong from the SUSS Centre for Applied Research on Wednesday (June 17) during a virtual media briefing.

He revealed that while 32 per cent of security officers said they have experienced verbal or physical abuse before, age plays a factor.

Among the security officers who are 29 or younger, only 15 per cent said they have experienced abuse. However, this went up to 39 per cent among security officers aged 70 and above - the highest percentage among all the age groups.

When asked to comment on why older security guards are more likely to be abused, Security Association Singapore president Raj Joshua Thomas told The Straits Times that this may be because the public sees them as "easier victims to intimidate to try to get their way".

Of the types of abuse security officers said they experienced, verbal abuse was the most common at 29 per cent, followed by both physical and verbal abuse at 3.1 per cent, and lastly, physical abuse at 0.3 per cent.

On the frequency of the abuse, more female security officers (7 per cent) said they experience verbal abuse daily, compared to 2 per cent of male security officers.

The respondents said the most common source of abuse is from the general public, followed by residents and contractors.

Mr Patrick Tay, assistant secretary-general of NTUC, said he was shocked by the survey findings.

He added that the labour movement has been calling for more protection under the law for security officers, regardless of where they work. Currently, officers working at condominiums and private establishments are excluded from the Protection from Harassment Act.

In March, the Ministry of Home Affairs said it is looking to amend the Private Security Industry Act next year, to better protect security officers from harassment or abuse.

Mr Desmond Choo, also assistant secretary-general of NTUC, said on Wednesday that security officers should be met with respect in the course of their work, particularly during the Covid-19 situation, when they are at the front line.

He added that more Singaporeans and employers need to stand up for security officers when they witness them being verbally or physically abused, or the situation would not improve.

USE's Mr Tan added: "When we go to work or to the office, we don't expect someone to punch us or scold us vulgarities. Why should security officers have to bear with that?"

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