I learnt how much security officers get paid, and it is appalling

Safety: You never appreciate it until you’ve felt the opposite. A few years ago, my sister’s third floor apartment near Holland Road was broken into. The thieves made off with jewellery, money and other valuables. But what they took most of all was a sense of safety, replaced by the feeling of always being uncomfortable in her home, checking every door twice and locking things up obsessively. Her apartment building did not have security staff, and I wish it had. From then on, having a guardpost has been key in choosing a place to live.

Make no mistake. Security guards make a difference. Once when I was locked out of my place in Thomson, the security guard waited with me by my condo until the locksmith came, and accompanied me to the ATM to get cash for the locksmith.

They give you a sense of assurance and they’re always there to give a hand when the need calls for it. Although crime is low and policing in Singapore is pretty awesome, they can’t be everywhere all the time. We need the presence of security guards.

When I read that security guards earn a paltry $800 a month on average, I was appalled. (See: Is that how much we value a safe and secure environment?

These guys work awful hours, need to be alert for suspicious activity and prowl your estates and whom are responsible for keeping houses and offices safe get paid less than a cleaner? Before CPF? Ridiculous.

Cleaners are covered by the Progressive Wage Model (an NTUC initiative) which compels the employer to start paying a minimum pay of $1200. I think this PWM needs to happen for the security industry.

I’m not convinced that a security officer should be paid this low. It is a job that involves risk, risk of confrontation with dodgy people, risk of being exposed to danger. It is also physically tiring, having to stay awake at ungodly hours. There is also good customer service to deliver, they need to be as polite as possible and deal gingerly with impatient residents.

We need to motivate these guards to want to do a good job. If they get paid so little, they’ll have to look for second and third jobs, which seems appalling when you consider the important work they are doing – ie keeping us safe, and making sure we never have to stress about locking every window or standing alone at night.

It is a dignified job, it is a good job and it is even a job that makes society better. I don’t buy the idea of “high business costs” or “poor business” to keep their salaries low. If business is that difficult or that bad, then the industry has to consolidate. Free up resources for the more agile companies that know how to do business.

Opportunist companies who are merely there to make a quick buck, should shut.

What about the use of technology? Do you really need to employ a large platoon of staff to start with? How about surveillance equipment? This way the officer can watch over many things at once. There are Inclusive Growth Project (IGP) funds to help with financing these projects.

This is an issue of bread and butter. We’re very good at complaining that the government has a lack of regulation to keep salaries high, but when there are too many regulations, we complain that this country is too legalistic for comfort.

What I hope now is that it is from the ground up, we get businessmen to review their own businesses and find ways to pay their staff better through their own initiatives.

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