So, I was one of the lucky ones who had the opportunity to attend a Learning Journey with NTUC recently! I want to share a compelling and inspiring story I'd heard with you guys.


I met Jamil (24), a Security Officer turned Supervisor, on the NTUC Learning Journey. His stories totally captivated me as he shared his experiences. Jamil had joined the industry as a security officer back in 2011, and he has since been promoted to a Supervisor. He manages a team of three security officers in the day and another three in the night at a condominium. He is also an NTUC union member.

What was shocking about his story was his very close brush with death during a road accident. Half his skull cracked and he was super-lucky to be alive. His injury was so serious that he was bedridden and could not work for six months!

It was a tough struggle dealing with the long list of hospital bills. On top of that, he has to raise his 6 children with a pay that's not spectacular. During the months of his absence because of his inability to work, his company kept his position and supported him wherever practicable. The union, too, helped Jamil and his family with their household expenses through vouchers.

Life's by no means easy on him, but his optimism and perseverance not to give in to the lemons that life has dealt him with are what led him to the Supervisor role he is today. He is looking forward to learning and earning more so as to better improve himself for the sake of his family. It is nice to see him eager to work hard for his future!

As a Singaporean, what about this country are you the most proud of?


Many of you may relate to the food, the diversity of races, maybe even the expanding economic growth. As for myself, I am thankful that Singapore is a safe haven! It is a blessing to live and grow in this country known for being one of the safest in the world. I can leave my phone on the table in public with no worries, walk along the streets at night yet still be fine.

One group of people I have to credit and thank for safety in Singapore are the security officers.


A security officer's job is to protect, but many times they play a whole lot of other roles (customer service, counsellors, GPS... Yup I am guilty for having been a part in their unofficial jobs).

There are an estimated 33,000 active security officers in Singapore, yet it has been difficult to recruit and retain people in this profession due to how the public perceives the security officer's job as a lowly appreciated AND lowly paid one. This is despite the fact that some 70,000 have actually been trained to become security officers. Today, the industry is grappling with a 25% shortage, which translates into some 10,000 positions. This number is expected to grow too.

That doesn't seem shocking actually, considering the challenges security officers face never seem to cease.



THE PROBLEMS

1) Public Perception
Admit it – security officers are considered to be one of the bottom-tiered jobs in Singapore. In today's advanced society, who is willing to take up this job which is perceived to be low-paid and low-skilled? Security officers are often seen as slackers because people automatically assume that they don't do much.

2) Low Pay
The median basic pay of a security officer is reported to be between $700-$800, say whaaaaaat!? Even after working 12 hours a day and 6 days a week, the median gross is only $1,550. And unlike many of you who constantly complain about how little year-end bonus you're getting, they have none of that.

3) Cheap Outsourcing
Out-sourcing involves many companies fighting for that 1 contract from the client. Many security officers work for the security companies. So when the company fights for contracts from clients, they have the tendency to lower their quotes in order to be awarded the security service contract. In turn, wages are being pushed down altogether. In a way, out-sourcing has become synonymous with cheap-sourcing. How do you expect the security officers' salaries to go up if every year, their companies just continue to bid for contracts at the same price or even lower?

4) Shortage of Manpower
As mentioned previously, the supply does not meet the demand in this industry. And this shortage in numbers will only keep growing. It is a vicious cycle, you know. Since there's a severe shortage and new people are not entering the industry, the existing pool of security officers will have to work longer and longer hours to meet the demand, but with very little adjustment to their base pay due to the practice of cheap-sourcing. With the super-long hours and low basic pay, all the more people don't want to join the industry.

5) Looooong Working Hours
According to the Singapore Yearbook of Manpower Statistics, 2014, the security and investigation industry is currently placed at the highest level of average weekly OT hours worked per employee across all industries! Security officers are usually required to clock in 12 hours a day, 6 times a week. That means that they can easily work for 95 hours of OT per month, when the limit is 72 hours monthly under the Employment Act. Seriously overworked and underpaid. Just imagine... these poor security officers are awake for 14 hours in a day. One hour in the morning to get ready for work, put in 12 hours of work, and then one hour to get home and sleep. Repeat this six days in a week. I don't know about you, but it sounds mighty scary to me!

The next time you complain about not having enough time and money, think again. With prices on the rise - just not the money in the bank - who would be willing to plunge into this pool of uncertainty?


Mooted by NTUC, the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) is a way to help lower income workers be better appreciated. I have special interests in this topic because of friends whose parents belong to that group of workers.

The PWM came into full effect for the cleaning sector in September 2014, and it was very much welcomed by the workers in the cleaning sector. NTUC has also lobbied for the PWM to be implemented for the security sector, yet another industry that has long suffered from the ill effects of cheap-sourcing like the cleaning sector, and where the workers' wages have been suppressed for years.




WHAT IS PROGRESSIVE WAGE MODEL (PWM)?


Check out the diagram above to have a rough idea what the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for the security sector is about.

Still confused? Well, here are some FAQs on the five-level Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for the security sector which will be fully in place from 2016.

Q: Is the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) like minimum wage?
A: Nooooo...! Although there will be a base salary of $1,100, which works out to at least $300 per month for the security officers, this is NOT the minimum wage model.

With minimum wage, the same security officer may still be earning $1,100 for the next five years. But with Progressive Wage Model (PWM), as they upgrade their job skills and improve productivity, they move up the salary scale.

NTUC's Progressive Wage Model (PWM) goes beyond minimum wage because the security officers will be placed on a career ladder which offers them training to upgrade their skills. With better skills, they can progress to the next level and earn more.

Q: What makes up the Progressive Wage Model (PWM)?
A: There are four key components and NTUC refers to them as 'ladders'. These are: (1) Salary progression, (2) Skills upgrading, (3) Career advancement, and (4) Productivity improvements.

Q: So, what is the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) to the security officers?
A: It's a wage model that benefits these lower-income security officers and help them progress throughout their working lives.

What!?!? Still confused? Haha, then just watch this video!




Even though the changes brought about by the implementation of the Progressive Wage Model for the security sector may not be something huge or even notable to us, it is extremely important to the people working in the security sector. Hopefully through the help of the labour movement and also through us, the people, these unsung heroes will be better appreciated by the society because we know we can't do without them working hard for us in the shadows.

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