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Security association calls out 'race and age discrimination' in tender by condo managing agent

Security association calls out 'race and age discrimination' in tender by condo managing agent

Hillview Heights condominium at Bukit Batok. (Image: Google Street View)

SINGAPORE: A tender for security services at Hillview Heights condominium was called out by the Security Association Singapore (SAS) for what it described as "race and age discrimination" on Monday (Sep 6).

The tender document, which was put out by the condominium's managing agent, Savills Property Management, states that there will be a penalty of S$100 per shift imposed on the security agency, if it fails to provide “a Chinese-speaking guard” for more than six shifts each month. A warning letter will also be issued. 

Dialects are “acceptable”, according to the tender. 

It also states that management may fine the agency S$100 each time a guard younger than 21 years old or older than 60 is deployed "without the prior approval of the management". 

The tender was posted on e-marketplace site Really Singapore and dated Sep 3.

CONCERNS ABOUT "DISCRIMINATION"

In a Facebook post, SAS said there are other "clauses of concern". But it highlighted those two clauses because they "appear to penalise security agencies unless they exercise discrimination in their hiring and deployment of security officers". 

"As we all know, Mandarin and the dialects are not mutually translatable – so what exactly is the job requirement here that Savills is looking for? Furthermore, for a Singapore condominium, is it a reasonable requirement for a Chinese-speaking officer to be deployed at all times?" said SAS. 

"It appears that the intention is for an ethnically Chinese officer to be deployed on a frequent basis at the condominium. This would be race discrimination."

The clause on not deploying a guard younger than 21 years old or older than 60 without management approval "appears to be age discrimination", added SAS. 

"... there is nothing in the tender document that indicates on what basis the management would give or withhold its 'approval'. It appears there is just an intention for older workers not to be deployed at the site."

NEED FOR FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES 

SAS also said in its Facebook post that it would raise the matter with the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

The association added, however, that they were "well aware that there may not be much they can do, because the fair employment guidelines apply only to employers".

This means that managing agents like Savills Property Management and service buyers like Hillview Heights "may be able to get away with forcing service providers like security agencies to carry out discriminatory practices".

It said it had spoken to MOM last year about this "gap in the law" and urged that the guidelines be extended to buyers of outsourced services as well. 

In a statement issued to the press, SAS executive director Ikhsan Suri said that managing agents should "properly advise their clients, the service buyers, on how to fairly, legally, and correctly outsource manpower services". 

"Instead, we have seen that some managing agents encourage and empower buyers to be discriminatory. This is especially disappointing, given that many outsourced service workers are in low wage professions, and should not see any opportunities slip by them due to workplace discrimination," he said.

SAS said it has been working with managing agents and security buyers to help them craft outsourced services contracts that are in line with TAFEP guidelines and are fair to workers. It added that it will continue to look out for unfair clauses in tenders and contracts. 

In response to CNA's queries about the incident, Mr Steve Tan, executive secretary for the Union of Security Employees at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said that the union fully supports SAS “in their reproach of this discriminatory behaviour”.

“We continue to work together to institute best sourcing practices in the industry, including educating buyers on how to outsource responsibly and also for security agencies to not take part in tenders that discriminate,” he said.

“The Union of Security Employees represents security officers. Where security officers face discrimination on the ground, we take firm action by addressing it with their employers – the security agencies,” he added.

“We work tightly with TAFEP to take action. Thus far, we have been able to resolve the cases that have been raised to us by officers.”

The Hillview Heights management told CNA over the phone on Tuesday that they "don’t have a comment at this time". 

Responding to CNA's queries, a spokesperson from Savills told CNA on Wednesday that they "sincerely apologise for any confusion caused", and added that "this is an unfortunate situation created by historical tender documentation language from 2000". 

CNA has contacted TAFEP for comment. 

In his National Day Rally speech this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore will enshrine into law the current workplace anti-discrimination guidelines. 

Currently, there are “clear guidelines” on fair treatment from TAFEP, he said. Most companies comply with TAFEP guidelines, and if a company “falls short”, TAFEP will counsel it, he added.

“If it still fails to get its act together, the Ministry of Manpower can impose administrative penalties, including restricting the company from hiring foreign workers. This has generally worked quite well.”

Over the years, the Government has received “repeated requests” to toughen up TAFEP, he said.

In particular, the labour movement and NTUC Members of Parliament have pushed for anti-discrimination laws that carry penalties.

The Government has held back “because we did not want the process to become legalistic or confrontational. It is better if disputes can be resolved amicably, through persuasion or mediation”, Mr Lee said.

However, after consulting the tripartite partners, the Government has decided to adopt the MPs’ suggestions, he said. “We will enshrine the TAFEP guidelines in law. This will give them more teeth, and expand the range of actions we can take."

Source: CNA/gy(gr)

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