Guards welcome move but customers worry about costs

The planned pay increases and cut in overtime hours will benefit workers like senior security officer Mohamed Alfie Idris, who now works 12-hour shifts six days a week.
The planned pay increases and cut in overtime hours will benefit workers like senior security officer Mohamed Alfie Idris, who now works 12-hour shifts six days a week.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Senior security officer Mohamed Alfie Idris, 38, clocked eight-hour shifts and worked five days a week in his previous job as a cafe supervisor.

He now works 12-hour shifts, six days a week, as a security guard at a condominium in Petir Road. "I only get to spend quality time with my wife on my days off," he said.

But he should be able to spend more time at home from 2021, when security companies can no longer apply for exemptions to allow guards to work up to 95 hours of overtime a month.

The legal maximum is 72 hours.

Other security guards also welcomed the move to reduce their working hours, announced yesterday. In other changes, the minimum pay for security guards will also be raised from 2019 under the progressive wage model.

Security companies say the wage increases and cut in overtime hours for guards will drive up costs.

Mr Pierce Ang, deputy managing director of Pico Guards, which employs around 600 security guards, said the costs of hiring one will likely go up by about 10 per cent for building and facilities managers who contract their services. "The impact will probably (be on) the buyer," he said.

  • Changes for a senior security officer

  • WHAT HE EARNS NOW

    $2,272 a month, including $1,300 basic pay

  • HOW LONG HE WORKS NOW

    12 hours a day, six days a week

  • WHAT HE WILL EARN IN 2021

    $2,483 a month, including $1,585 basic pay

  • HOW LONG HE WILL WORK IN 2021

    12 hours a day, alternating between a five-day and six-day work week

Security firms will have to adopt technology to reduce the reliance on manpower and reduce net costs, he added, citing the use of video analytics to detect abnormalities such as illegal parking, smoking or intrusions.

A job that requires 12 man-hours can be reduced to requiring just one hour in this manner, he said.

"But some buyers may have reservations and feel that having actual eyes and men on the ground to intervene in an emergency situation is better," he added.

When asked, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) said exceptions to the overtime rule may be made for major events requiring heavy security.

A spokesman for Certis Cisco, which employs more than 5,000 security guards, said security service buyers will have to work closely with agencies to find a combination of technology and boots on the ground that works for them.

Security Tripartite Cluster chairman Zainal Sapari said his group is working with MOM to help buyers source for technology providers. There are grants available to support this, he added.

Customers like commercial building managers and condominium management council members voiced worries about rising costs.

CapitaLand Singapore property services head Alfred Lim said security makes up a significant proportion - about 10 per cent to 20 per cent - of operating expenses. He is looking at sharing security services across company buildings that are near one another to reduce costs.

But Mr S.K. Cheah, a Management Corporation Strata Title council member, said technology may not be able to replace guards in patrolling certain problem spots and identifying strangers.

 

If more guards are needed due to the shorter working hours, residents may have to pay more in maintenance fees eventually, he added.

Better working conditions will hopefully attract more young people, said security supervisor Peter Lim, 62, who works at a commercial building in Middle Road.

"If we use more cameras, I don't have to climb up and down the stairs so many times every day," he said. "But some older colleagues may complain about using technology because they are not used to it."

• Additional reporting by Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2017, with the headline 'Guards welcome move but customers worry about costs'. Print Edition | Subscribe