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Netizens question stricter punishment to be imposed on security guards from 1 Jan

Starting from 1st January, private security officers who slack off, sleep on the job or sign in to work drunk can face harsher punishment as the police strengthen penalties for errant behaviours to augment the industry’s professionalism and fortify Singapore’s defences.

Officers who show errant attitude can be “punished by a fine not exceeding $2, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or both. These offences may also be compounded by a fine, in lieu of prosecution.”

Prior to this, there was no penalty for security officers who act unprofessionally, and those who don’t perform well would be given verbal warnings and get suspended or fired.

The spokesman from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in response to media query on the new regulations, said that “MHA will strengthen the penalties for selected breaches that pose a risk to public safety and security, to further underscore the importance of upholding professional standards in the security industry and deter errant behaviour.”

“Breaches that will be made an offence include sleeping or consuming alcohol while on duty, being absent from their post without a valid reason, or failing to respond promptly to any request for assistance by any person suffering injuries or damage or loss of property, among other.”

Just last month, the Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said that private security officers play a vital role as they are often the first line of defence. He further said that with proper training, they will be able “to respond to any incident, offer help and manage the public after a terrorist attack.”

The MHA also explained that first-time offenders will be “given warnings or composition fines. Besides prosecution, licence suspension and revocation are also penalties that would be considered, especially in extreme cases or recalcitrant offenders.”

The police has discussed with security associations and the Union of Security Employees about these changes and they have all given their approval.

Association of Certified Security Agencies (ACSA) president Robert Wiener shared with Straits Times that “currently security officers who flouted the rules and were fired could simply move on to another firm, and there was no incentive for them to uphold professional standards.” He added, “There was no real approach we could take as employers when they sleep on the job, come to work drunk or act unprofessionally. I think this is a fantastic move in terms of bringing discipline back to the industry.”

Despite support from employers, union and security association, this move didn’t go too well with the public. Many of them are saying that this new enforcement is being imposed on the old and retirees as they are the ones who work as security officers.

Facebook user, Rajan Rajamanickam said that the majority of security officers are “70 years old working 12 hours shift and they earn a miserable income compared to MPs earning $16, 000 a month and they sleep in the parliament.”

Another FB user named Lim Teck Kee also feels that penalising security officers is not entirely fair. He questioned on how this group’s pay should be increased if they are strictly punished. He said, “If security officers are punished harshly, then their pay should rise in line with this law. Let’s be fair to this group of people who help to take care of the premises. How about minister who are public figure who get high pay, for those who commit adultery or crime should be jailed for life. How about that?” while another FB user, Mike Chew wrote that he feels that it’s cruel to expect senior citizens to stay awake on a 12 hours shift.

One FB user, Malcolm Phua, who had the opportunity to get to know more about security guards’ working rosters and the overtime they do, said that “it’s definitely not a walk in the park. As they are not paid much, they have to work ridiculously long hours to bring home the bacon. I think more details should be studied and work out a solution instead of penalizing them by paying a fine. Their plight must be heard.”

With many netizens questioning the need for such a penalty, given that security officers work long grueling hours and are expected to not doze off during their shift, it has also come to light the dangerous workaholic culture in Singapore.

According to an article published by Channel NewsAsia, Singaporeans remain among the hardest working in the world – at least as seen by the number of hours clocked – although the statistic from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is showing that the number of working hours has been on a steady decline since 2010.

“Based on latest available global statistics, Singapore residents in 2015 worked the second longest week in developed cities around the world, clocking in 45.6 hours, trailing only behind Hong Kong at 50.1 hours. When it comes to country-by-country comparisons, a 2016 report by ManpowerGroup – a multinational human resource consultancy listed on the New York stock exchange – also found that millennials (aged between 20 and 34) in Singapore worked the joint-second longest hours (48) in the world, behind India (52) and on par with China and Mexico.”

Clocking in such long hours also means that employees don’t get to spend time with their family. Generally, there are two working hours – usual hours worked and actual hours worked. Usual hours worked refers to the typical working hours which include unpaid overtime and hours spent checking work emails or carrying out other regular tasks at home. On the other hand, actual hours worked includes all forms of overtime, regardless of whether they are regular in nature or whatever they paid for.

The article also noted that “the usual hours worked declined from the recent peak of 46.6 hours a week in 2010 to 43.2 hours in 2017, according to statistic from the MOM. Actual hours worked also dropped, from a high of 45.6 hours in 2010 to 43.0 in 2017.”

However, the “MOM report was greeted with disbelief by some netizens, with several pointing out that they are working longer hours and how technology has resulted in them having to frequently attend to work outside of office hours via emails or whatsapp messages.”

FB user Raymond Chua sadly agrees with the article as even when he goes home “he has to bring laptop and work. Stressed and totally no mood for getting married or having any children.”

Another user also agrees and says that there is lack of work life balance in Singapore. He hardly has the time to socialise with people as he comes home late and feels exhausted.

FB user, Jouren LZ suggested that “working hours should be made 8 hours, including lunch hour. Culture should be less demanding to achieve work life balance. We all should be less demanding towards life.”