Security firms not ready for wage ladder

Only about 100 out of some 250 agencies are ready to implement new model from Sept 1

With six weeks to go before a new wage ladder sets in to lift the pay of security officers, fewer than half the security firms here are prepared for the change.

Union of Security Employees executive secretary Steve Tan said that around 100 out of some 250 security agencies are ready to implement the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), which will be mandatory for the security sector from Sept 1.

The PWM is a framework for basic pay and career progression of low-wage workers who are Singaporeans or permanent residents so as to improve their well-being.

It is already compulsory for the cleaning and landscaping sectors.

Even though the security firms which are ready employ the bulk - or over two-thirds - of the industry's officers, it is unclear if the remaining 150 can meet the Sept 1 deadline. Not doing so would cost them their licences to operate.

Mr Tan said there would be no further grace period for the remaining firms to implement the PWM after it comes into effect.

"In 2014, we agreed as a tripartite committee upon a two-year timeline. To move it further now would be unfair to companies that have already established the framework," he said.

One company that recently made major adjustments is Certis Cisco, Singapore's largest security service provider. It managed to put in place the PWM for its 16,000 officers - more than a third of the industry's 43,000 active officers - on July 1.

Cisco vice-president of human resources Daniel Low said this meant the firm's security officers would see their average basic pay rise by 30 per cent, with a minimum wage of $1,100 for entry-level officers.

Senior officers will get a sweetener. "For our senior security supervisors, we have adopted a minimum pay of $2,500, as opposed to the PWM basic of $1,700," said Mr Low.

The moves were welcomed by workers like Mr Freddy Yuam, 26, who joined Cisco last year as a protection specialist. He was sent for courses to become a security supervisor after bosses saw his leadership potential. "I feel the new model acknowledges and rewards good performance," he said.

Mr Kumaran Ramanathan, 36, who has been with Cisco for a decade and is now an assistant manager in recruitment and administration, felt the new model will help draw new joiners to the industry.

National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari called on security agencies to step up the pace of training for officers, and estimated the industry might be short of 3,000 security supervisors come Sept 1.

"The PWM is based on the premise that the officers are better trained and hence they should be paid higher. Without the training component, it is a bit difficult to justify to service buyers why they should be paying more," he said.

"The labour market is very tight. Many of the security agencies... have to do what it takes to retain their officers," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 24, 2016, with the headline 'Security firms not ready for wage ladder'. Print Edition | Subscribe