98 security firms set industry norms, pledge to whistle-blow on service buyers with "unfair practices"

Security Association of Singapore (SAS) president Raj Joshua Thomas (third from left) and Association of Certified Security Agencies (ACSA) president Robert Wiener with their signed memorandums of understanding. PHOTO: UNION OF SECURITY EMPLOYEES

SINGAPORE - Ninety-eight security firms have banded together to set industry norms on areas such as payment schedules, how disputes should be resolved, and when contracts can be terminated.

They have also agreed to alert each other about clients who include "unfair clauses", such as those which allow contracts to be terminated only by the client.

The security firms have also pledged not to do business with such clients until the association has sent them materials on fair contract clauses.

These were among the key terms of a pact signed at a ceremony on Thursday (Aug 16) by 98 out of 248 security firms which are members of either the Association of Certified Security Agencies (ACSA) and Security Association of Singapore (SAS) .

On the reasons behind these pledges, ACSA president Robert Wiener said: "Sometimes, companies fail to pay workers their wages on time. The aim of the clauses is to get it down to proper figures, within a specific time. There should be time limits on payouts."

For instance, a "standard" prompt payment clause agreed by the firms states that for security guards at residential premises, clients have to make payment of 80 per cent of the monthly salary within two weeks from the start of the month.

If this is breached, SAS president Raj Joshua Thomas said: "For clients who have unreasonable contractual practices, members of the MOU can inform us and we will send some materials on fair contract clauses to these clients."

As for why the security firms came together, he added: "We cannot have a solution that one association rolls out just for its members. For the types of clauses, it must be for all of the industry, it can't be just for one group or the other."

Still, it is up to the client to decide whether to include the "standard" clauses.

"While the standard clauses are in-line with industry consensus on what fair clauses should look like, ultimately a contract is a matter of a private agreement between the firm and the client. They are free to negotiate the clauses."

Both associations on Thursday also signed a separate Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) pledging closer cooperation, marking a break from a long-running rivalry in fighting for customers.

Mr Wiener said this MOU - which details initiatives as forming a steering committee comprising their respective presidents to coordinate activities and initiatives - means both associations will work closely on joint projects and move forward as "one association and one industry".

"For the three of us, historically we used to be very separate and agenda-driven. Today, we are not agenda-driven. We are industry-driven," he said.

Separately, the Union of Security Employees Singapore (USE) and the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) on Thursday also launched a mediation service for security officers and their employers to resolve employment-related disputes and workplace grievances.

Run by USE, its aim is to resolve disputes at an earlier opportunity, instead of the current approach of taking it directly to the TADM.

It precedes the TADM service and is supported by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

Since its soft launch on July 2, USE said it has handled 24 cases.

In one example, an employee reported that his salary was deducted although his annual leave was approved.

The mediator found out that the employer did not communicate this to the human resources department. The company then reinstated the paid leave and also took in USE's suggestions to make improvements to the leave application process to prevent similar occurrences.

"USE takes on a lead role to mediate disputes and to work out a resolution that is fair to all parties involved. It will benefit both employers and employees," said USE assistant executive secretary Mohamad Randy at the Security Industry Council's National Day Observance Ceremony on Thursday.

"For the company, this is very important, because any non-compliance of labour laws would affect them when it comes to the annual Security Agency Grading Exercise."

The grading exercise is conducted by MOM and the Police Licensing Regulatory Department.

A campaign to promote respect for security officers, titled #hormatsecurity, was also launched. One aspect of the campaign sees decals put up at security counters and posts, notifying the public that abuse of security officers may result in prosecution.

Said Mr Thomas: "I think it's very ironic, that when you look at officers in uniform, they're supposed to be a symbol of authority. And yet they often end up being a victim of abuse, and that's what we want to correct.

"He is there to do enforcement, he is not there for you to scold or take out your frustrations."

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