6 in 10 security officers looking to leave jobs, 4 in 10 face abuse at work: Survey

There are about 40,000 security officers in Singapore. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE – More security officers are looking to leave their jobs as expectations of pay increases and promotions have come down despite the tight labour market, according to a survey by the Union of Security Employees (USE).

About four in 10 of the 1,002 officers surveyed also said they continue to see various forms of abuse at work, a slight increase from 2021.

Results of the survey, done as part of a long-term study on the sector in collaboration with the Singapore University of Social Sciences, were released on Thursday.

There are about 40,000 security officers in Singapore, spread across about 265 agencies. 

The survey showed that 66.6 per cent of respondents said they agree or strongly agree to the statement “I would probably look for a new job in the near future”, up from 43.1 per cent in 2021’s survey.

This is despite a decline in perceptions of job insecurity, which fell from 12.5 per cent to 6.2 per cent.

USE executive secretary Steve Tan said in a media briefing on the study on Thursday that these perceptions may be due to how employers and customers are reacting to security officers’ wages steadily rising due to the Progressive Wage Model (PWM).

Wages rose slightly from $1,400 a month in 2021 to $1,442 a month in 2022.  This will increase to $1,650 in 2023, and again to $2,650 in 2024. 

Mr Tan said: “What we are seeing is that because PWM wage increases are being rolled out yearly and costs are hence increasing for buyers, some buyers are trying to ‘buy down’ – for example, hiring a security officer instead of a senior security officer because the costs per head are lower.

“This affects our security officers, because even though there is a PWM wage ladder for them to climb, they feel that their chances of getting promotions or salary increments are low, because buyers are not going to ‘buy’ these higher ranks.”

From 2024, there will be a marked shift in officers’ wages under the PWM. They will receive a gross monthly wage instead of basic wage plus overtime.

This is because their wages will exceed the $2,600 cap, and as such, under the Employment Act, they will no longer qualify for overtime wages.

Wages from overtime – for which they are paid 1½ times their basic rate – currently make up about a third of their salaries.

Moving officers from basic to gross wages is meant to help the industry cut working hours, so that officers can work eight-hour shifts instead of 12-hour ones, said Mr Tan.

He added that security jobs will need to transform alongside technology adoption for this to happen. This will require a mindset shift as well, said Mr Tan.

He added: “Traditionally, if someone wants to buy security, they take their budget and divide it by the cost per security officer, and hope that security will be adequate.

“Instead, people should first be looking at what outcomes they want, then implement technologies at the site before hiring manpower to use the tech to achieve those outcomes.”

Security jobs need to transform to being able to manage such technology, instead of repetitive and low-productivity activities such as patrolling or manual checks, he added.

To illustrate how such a set-up may be implemented, the media was given a tour of Alex Residences, a condominium near Redhill MRT station.

The condominium has video analytics technology which alerts residents when they are too near to dangerous areas, such as the fencing on the building’s 40th floor.

This helps security officers such as Mr Sivan Manokaran, 44, save time and effort as he no longer needs to patrol the area every hour.

Mr Sivan, who has been working in security for 10 years, said: “We now have body cameras and better closed-circuit television technology. But shorter shifts and even bonuses would really help draw more people into the industry.”

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