I stayed at Sari Pan Pacific Jakarta over the weekend and was amazed at how security is pretty tight at the hotels and malls. Apart from the metal detector everyone has to walk through outside my hotel, they also have the handheld devices to scan your bags, sniffer dogs and more guards at the gate who will check the taxi’s boot and also the underside of the vehicles!
Have you ever thought about how much our local security officers are being paid to guard our homes and offices? I recently had the opportunity of finding out what their job and salary is like…
If you’re offered the option of working full-time six days a week in Singapore, and you’re only going to be drawing a salary of S$800 – S$900 a month, would you take the job?
Your answer might be an outright “no”, like mine was. But this is a reality for over 30,000 security officers in Singapore. How does one survive on an S$800 monthly salary? The truth is, we can’t. And therefore these officers work up to 12 hours a day to get overtime pay.
So that’s 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. And their jobs are not as simple as just sitting behind a desk and staring at CCTV monitors.
What Do We Think Security Officers Do?
When I enter buildings, the security officer is the person who gives me a pass in exchange for ID. And when I need directions, whether I’m in a mall or trying to get to one, I ask the security officer. And at the airport, they are the ones who decide what I can or cannot bring with me.
But beyond that, what do they really do?
What Does A Security Officer Really Do?
Before he retired, my Dad was a security supervisor in one of our major hospitals. And it was quite a stressful job. Sometimes, there would be ministers coming for their checkups, other times scuffles between anxious relatives of patients and hospital staff, and the occasional unreasonable person who lost a bag or phone and demands that Security finds it, like that doctor who brought $10,000 in cash and placed it in a bag in the locker room and has it go missing. (Why bring that much money to work anyway?!)
In general, security officers screen the people and vehicles seeking entry into a property, they patrol and prevent thefts, checks for leaks and signs of fire or smoke, prevent unauthorized entry, check that the security system is working and not tampered with, manage vehicle parking allocation, check lighting is working, operate gates / doors / barriers, do traffic control, maintain access records, and escort visitors, among other things based on the company they work for.
I had the opportunity to speak to a condominium’s security supervisor about what his job really entails, and what job hazards come with it.
It seems that residents staying in that condominium expect much more from him and his team than what is stated in his job description. In cases of encroachment, e.g. if someone’s bicycle is left in what another resident thinks is his space, then a security officer will be called in, when it should come under the condo’s management’s jurisdiction.
To make matters worse, security officers have been accused of taking bribes and damaging property. Some (crazy, maybe?) resident has accused officers of accepting a bribe and damaging his/her car, without any incriminating evidence.
I can only imagine how upsetting it would be if I’m working 12-hour shifts just to earn a decent wage to support my family, and doing my work as best I can, and yet be wrongly accused of damaging property when I would never do something like that.
Too Little Pay, Too Much Work
Security officers are definitely not paid as much as they deserve.
As it is common for service buyers such as condominium and building managing agents to choose the cheapest quote, security agencies compete on price and depress wages as a result.
Security agencies should think of ways to make the jobs of security officers easier, safer and smarter. For example, instead of making the officer walk throughout the premises five times a night, why not install motion-sensor CCTVs that the officer can monitor?
Service buyers who choose the security agency shouldn’t look at security officers as an expense and choose the cheapest, but learn how to best-source based on quality, experience and good service level, for example.
The good news is that things are about to change. The Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for the security industry was launched in October this year, seeing a good number of security agencies jumping on the bandwagon, but for the laggards, they have up still September 2016 to implement PWM within their company.
According to NTUC’s Zainal Sapari, “PWM would ensure there will be a baseline for wage-setting when security firms bid for contracts. The model will also offer a career path for security officers where the salary earned will commensurate with level of responsibility, productivity and training received”.
In its efforts to protect low wage workers, the Labour Movement has established that security agencies who do not comply with the requirements may not have their licences renewed. While it may sound harsh, but for the benefit of the workers, I am glad that something is being done at least to protect them.
Security officers can expect to earn more as they undergo training and greater opportunities for advancement to Senior Security Officer (min. S$1300), Security Supervisor (min. S$1500), Senior Security Supervisor (min. S$1700) and eventually Chief Security Supervisor.
Also, let us also stop taking these security officers for granted. It’s a tough job. Most of them are on their feet much of the day, not all have the luxury of working in an air-conditioned environment, most don’t have a proper pantry to rest their feet and get a much-needed coffee break, and many are thrown challenges daily by demanding “customers”.
If there is a security officer whom you meet daily but have never really spoken to or thanked for a good job done, why not speak with him or her today, or even take it one step further and give the person a thank-you note or a cup of coffee? You know you’ll love it if you’re in his/her shoes. :)