Be extra nice to your security officer, their work isn’t easy

The internet isn’t lacking in videos of security officers getting abused by the public. Worse, sometimes it is the very residents they serve that hurt them, as is in the now-famous case of Mr. 1.5-million-condo. Look – it is your condo rules, enacted by the management you voted in to make life better for you. No one likes to be told what to do and this is what security officers have to go through day in, day out.

Noisy neighbours? Call security.

Rowdy teenagers? Call security.

Drunk advertising executive who can’t find the carpark? Call security.

The security officers themselves don’t have it easy. On the left, they have to respond to incidents (and even get pro-active in finding incidents). On the right, they have an employer that fears losing a contract with the buyer. The officer has few friends, and friendship won’t be found in neither the client nor the employer.

Some think that in the witch hunt, they can go after the perpetrator’s employer… but let’s be realistic. This is JP Morgan we’re talking about. Ordinary Singaporeans will not be clients of this company, not unless you have S$50m spare cash. And should push come to shove, JPM would gladly shut down Singapore offices than to offend their massive Indian consumer base.

Did you also know that they are not considered public service workers and consequently, not protected by the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA)? 

Many of the people I spoke with didn’t know about this either, so I pointed them to Labour MP Zainal Sapari’s latest Facebook post. He pointed out this flaw and called for more protection for security officers, urging for the POHA to be extended to include security officers in condos and private establishments, in addition to public service workers. With these changes, those found guilty of abusing or insulting condo security officers could then be fined up to $5,000, jailed for up to a year, or both.

So if you were the officer, what can you do? Who would you speak with? Who’s going to be on your side? This is the reason why the trade union and the entire NTUC mechanism should be central to officer’s career. It is the trade union that would back the officer should things go awry at work. It is the trade union that can defend the officer against senseless attacks and bring the matter to authoritative scrutiny. This was swiftly proven in the present case. 

The Union of Security Employees (USE) was reported to be working with the police and that it has been handing out notices about respecting security officers who are performing their duties. “While we empathise with the resident on his unhappiness with the rules of the estate, his right of recourse should be through his management committee,” said USE’s general secretary Raymond Chin.

Shortly after, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in a Facebook post last night that what the resident did and said was wrong.

“It is these examples of modern-day bigotry and a sense of entitlement that the light of Deepavali seeks to dispel. Kudos to the condo security officer, who handled the abuse and a very unpleasant situation in a dignified way,” he said.

The USE doesn’t just back security officers in times of need. They have been there proactively trying to improve wages, welfare and work prospects of workers. The Progressive Wage Model (PWM) was one such policy, it swiftly lifted the salaries across the industry and assured the officers of a more rewarding career. The union has also been actively reducing the hours they are compelled to work, a matter of great complexity in the industry has finally met with some consensus this year.

Notice that all this work involves policy changes at the national level; it protects workers on a wider scale more efficiently rather than piecemeal activity through dramatic showdowns, protests and mob action. Take Zainal’s recent push in Parliament for example. No one would know about how POHA affects security officers, unless he/she comes from an organisation that is deeply involved in the worker’s working environment on a day-to-day basis. And which other organisation would be so deeply concerned about the worker, than the trade union?

This is not the only topic that Zainal has pushed on. He represents to a large degree issues that affect workers on a wide spectrum: from low wage workers to muslim issues. In my opinion, the labour movement doesn’t have enough MPs to voice workers issues actively – we need more, especially when the texture of workers is changing and changing rapidly.

Job protection and progression can only be implemented efficiently at a national level, from the top and this is why I argue that the NTUC needs more voices in parliament to influence policy making at the source.

That said, while we know that the labour movement is busy negotiating, voicing and drafting out policies to strengthen the entire sector, we can also do our bit. Let us understand that the officers are there to protect our rights. In this climate of terrorism anxiety and complex criminality, surely the officers have better things to do than to argue with you over a carpark rule that your own management enacted. 

Flash them a smile and a wave every now and then. This work isn’t easy and everyone likes to be appreciated and recognised for the work they contribute.

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