Security Industry Faces Manpower Crunch, Especially in Dorms
The Straits Times
6 Dec 2021
Jaded by the increasing hours on the job and the heavy workload, many security officers working in dormitories quit last year as the number of
Covid-19 cases among foreign workers rose steadily.
While cases of abuse of security officers have increased during the pandemic, manpower is also a concern.
Mr Deva Joseph, the head of operations at Premier Security Co-operative, said that around 70 per cent of officers who worked in dormitories have left the agency.
He told The Straits Times: “There’s a manpower crunch in the security industry now, especially those posted to dorms and medical facilities.
“And when there is a crunch, the man on the job does more work.”
Security officer Roslee Mokhtar was one of the few who stayed on and he was moved from his role manning guard posts in dormitories in Jurong and Tuas to managing the movement of residents in and out of the premises, and ensuring they adhered to the ever-changing Covid-19 restrictions.
Mr Roslee, 56, who was recently promoted to a supervisory role, said: “Right now, the economy is bad so I know I can’t turn back. There are good prospects in this line and it is my bread and butter.”
The latest review of wages for private security officers proposed by the Security Tripartite Cluster (STC) aimed to address the manpower issue in the industry.
NTUC assistant director-general Zainal Sapari, who chairs the STC, said manpower is strained due to the heavier workload brought about by the pandemic.
Service buyers are still relying on “headcount-based contracts”, he added, where men are hired simply based on fulfilling numbers, without assessing how best to tackle security issues at a site.
This was reiterated at the Outcome-Based Contracting Conference at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Nov 26, where industry players said service buyers continued to rely on headcount-based contracts due to a lack of awareness and expertise on how best to approach security issues.
Reliance Security Services has seen around a quarter of its guards resign so far due to the pandemic, and managing director Mack N. Nambiar said the agency frequently hires freelancers off chat groups.
Mr Mack, 67, said: “For a 12-hour shift, they ask for around $150 to $200. This is more than the usual pay of around $100 for full-timers but you can’t blame them… They don’t have the usual privileges of permanent staff.”
He suggested opening the door to other nationalities – only locals and Malaysians can be hired currently – adding that they would likely be willing to work in Singapore for less money.
“Youngsters don’t want this job,” said Mr Mack. “You can’t afford a three-room flat with a job like this.”
Mr Ikhsan Suri, executive director of Security Association Singapore, urged agencies and service buyers to leverage technology to tackle the manpower constraints.
Union of Security Employees executive secretary Steve Tan said that with the help of technology and planning, the pool of about 55,000 qualified security officers here would be sufficient to provide for the 18,000 sites where personnel are deployed.
He said the company training committee initiative offered by the union provides resources and expertise to help agencies and service buyers tackle security needs.
“Too many service buyers have a very backward way of thinking about security, hiring a person to do a job that a machine can do,” said Mr Tan.
For example, many officers in condominiums are assigned to a guardhouse to man the camera network and gantries on the premises, he said.
It is more efficient and productive for sites to use an agency with a remote command centre that monitors multiple locations, leveraging smart cameras with analytics and visitor management systems, he added.
“It is too expensive for an educated Singaporean to be a watchman when he can do much more. This is ‘dinosaur’ thinking.”
The Straits Times