SINGAPORE - Salary increases for security officers should be accelerated to make the wage ladder more sustainable for them, said an employer group representing security agencies.
The Security Association Singapore (SAS) was replying to a forum letter published in The Straits Times last Tuesday (June 15), which argued that wage recommendations in the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for the security sector should be lowered for locals to be able to compete with foreigners.
The PWM is a wage ladder that sets out the minimum monthly salary for local low-wage workers, based on their skills and training.
"We think PWM increases should be accelerated to deal with the fact that security officers feel the need to work such long overtime hours just to earn a reasonable wage," said SAS executive director Ikhsan Suri in a reply published on Monday (June 21). He added that most, if not all, officers work up to 72 hours of overtime in a month.
This unusual stance reflects employers' desire to work with tripartite partners to lift workers' wages.
In the earlier forum letter last Tuesday, Mr Vijayakumar Kassi touched on a security officer's basic monthly wage of $1,400, before noting that there is little demand for senior positions like security supervisors, because many clients want only the cheapest option. The writer also stated that the situation is aggravated if work permit holders who have upskilled are given priority for senior positions.
In his reply, SAS' Mr Ikhsan rubbished the assertion that work permit holders could be given priority for senior roles. "In fact, the majority of senior positions are held by Singaporeans," he said.
He added that the availability of senior positions is not a simple matter of market demand. The PWM prescribes the job functions of each grade. "A security agency which deploys a basic security officer for a function that, under the PWM, only a higher-ranking officer can perform would be breaching the PWM, and may be taken to task," he said.
But Mr Ikhsan noted that buyers of security services have been known to ask for a lower-level officer to be deployed for higher-level functions. He urged agencies to reject bidding for such contracts.
In a separate reply, Union of Security Employees general secretary Raymond Chin said that what officers do on the ground is "often determined by how enlightened the buyer is, and the capabilities their employers have".
The Ministry of Manpower told ST that from 2015 to 2019, the median gross wages of security officers have seen a 29 per cent cumulative increase, "growing at a faster rate than the average resident worker".
The tripartite partners will ensure that the wage increases "are sustainable for employers and meaningful for workers", it added.
Views on whether upskilling leads to better wages were mixed.
A 25-year-old safety and security manager, who gave her name as Nadiah and has been in the security sector for five years, said there is a clear progression path to pursue.
Another officer, who wanted to be known only as Mac, however, has observed few job openings for senior roles.
The 36-year-old, who has been in the line for 16 years, added: "We can upgrade ourselves, but the demand for senior job positions is very low," he added.