SINGAPORE: The majority of Singapore’s roughly 250 security firms are now in compliance with the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) requirements set for the industry, according to the police which said that to date, "investigations against four security agencies are ongoing".
Firms had until Sep 1 to implement the requirements if they want their licenses renewed by the police.
They must ensure that their security officers complete the required training under the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications framework for Security. Security officers should also be paid wages that are in line with or higher than levels specified in the PWM. These start from S$1,100 for an entry-level security officer, to about S$1,700 and above for senior security supervisors and chief security officers.
Commenting on the level of compliance, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said this is a positive step, given that earlier estimates by the Union of Security Employees (USE) put the bulk of the industry - or up to 150 firms - at risk of failing to comply by the deadline.
NTUC noted that some smaller, non-unionised firms with fewer resources may struggle to meet the requirements.
There is "hesitation on the part of security agencies to send their employees for training, for fear that their employees might be poached by other security agencies”, said NTUC’s assistant secretary-general, Zainal Sapari.
“We also received feedback that service buyers are not being helpful in terms of allowing them to send their officers for training without getting a replacement, even though the security agencies assure them that whatever security officers are on the ground, they would be able to provide the security services needed."
According to the Association of Certified Security Agencies (ACSA), training was the greater hurdle to compliance than wages.
“Agencies were forewarned that there was a need to address the training requirements some 18 months prior to Sep 2016,” said ACSA president Robert Wiener. “However, the industry at that time was some 11,000 staff short and so to extract staff from their jobs to attend the course was a challenge.”
But Mr Wiener added that the association continued to engage and help its members through regular meetings to work out training and wage implementations. He also said the association managed to persuade the security tripartite committee for more time to meet the framework’s requirements.
The committee agreed in 2014 to give firms a two-year period to adjust their operations. It was also agreed that no further extension would be given, in fairness to agencies that have already implemented the framework.
On the union's part, NTUC said it raised awareness among security officers on the need to attend training, as well as the availability of evening and weekend classes from the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.
"There's a lot of flexibility provided in the scheduling for officers to attend training on their own," said Mr Zainal.
The tripartite committee sees the framework as a measure to help address the manpower shortage in the industry, which is grappling with low salaries and high turnover. Mr Zainal said the next step to attract younger workers and retain talent could be to introduce mandatory benefits seen in other industries, like annual increments and bonuses.
The PWM has also been introduced for the cleaning and landscape sectors. It is aimed at increasing wages through skills upgrading and productivity improvements for low-wage Singaporean or permanent resident workers.