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Abuse of security officers in Singapore has surged 30% since Covid-19: Survey

SINGAPORE — The abuse of security officers at work, mostly verbal, has surged nearly one-third since the Covid-19 pandemic began, with much of it coming from members of the public, a survey has found.

More than two in five security guards reported abuse, much of it from members of the public, a survey found.

More than two in five security guards reported abuse, much of it from members of the public, a survey found.

  • Two in five security officers surveyed said they faced abuse while on the job
  • Most of this was verbal, with much of the abuse coming from members of the public
  • Job satisfaction remained high, however, with four in five saying they were satisfied

 

SINGAPORE — The abuse of security officers at work, mostly verbal, has surged nearly one-third since the Covid-19 pandemic began, with much of it coming from members of the public, a survey has found.

Despite this, job satisfaction remained high among the 1,002 officers surveyed between September and November last year by the Union of Security Employees (USE) and the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

Commenting on the results, released on Thursday (March 25), USE's executive secretary Steve Tan said it was clear that the pandemic has heightened tensions at the officers’ workplaces.

The rise in abuse cases was in part because security officers have been playing a visible role in enforcing Covid-19 safe management measures, such as mask-wearing and temperature checks, he added.

With more residents working from home, security officers were also often called upon to settle disputes between neighbours, Mr Tan said.

“We were not surprised that the number of officers who were verbally and physically abused went up, and we really seek (the understanding of) Singaporeans and the public to be respectful of the officers (who are) merely doing their job,” he said at a media briefing.

The survey found that 42.3 per cent of security officers had encountered some form of abuse, a rise from 32.4 per cent in the same survey conducted between January and February last year before the main impact of the pandemic. That represents an increase of more than 30 per cent.

Most of the abuse was verbal, with 37.2 per cent of respondents reporting that they faced verbal abuse and 4.8 per cent saying that they faced both verbal and physical abuse.

Respondents also indicated that the highest proportion of the abuse came from members of the public, followed by visitors (including food delivery riders, contractors) and residents.

But the biggest jump in reported abuse came from the officers’ employers — the security agencies. This jumped to 13.4 per cent from 3 per cent in the previous survey.

USE's general secretary Raymond Chin, who is himself an operations manager at a security agency, attributed this to complaints from the public, which gets passed down from the building manager to the security agency.

The agency then has to convey the complaint to the security officer, who may view it as a form of verbal abuse.

To tackle future cases of abuse, USE will launch a mobile application for security officers to report abuse and work-related grievances to its mediation service by the third quarter of this year.

Mr Desmond Choo, assistant secretary general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said that the rising numbers of security officers facing workplace abuse is worrying. USE is an affiliate of NTUC.

In a Facebook post, Mr Choo said: “The longer-term goal is one where mutual respect is pervasive at the workplace. And to reach that goal, it is incumbent upon employers and service buyers to ensure that they protect the interests of the security officers.”

Union leaders said that many of these altercations can be prevented altogether if building managers install systems to enforce in-house rules, such as having gantries to automatically collect parking fees, union leaders said.

In 2019, a video that was widely circulated showed a man verbally abusing a condominium security guard over a S$10 parking fee for visitors. The man, investment banker Ramesh Erramalli, was later issued a stern warning by the police.

Despite more security officers facing abuse, the survey found that job satisfaction had remained unchanged from the last survey, with four in five indicating that they were satisfied with their job.

Salaries for security officers of all ranks continue to be above the recommended wages set out in the Progressive Wage Model, which became a licensing requirement for security agencies in 2016.

The median wage for junior-level security officers, however, fell to S$1,300 from S$1,400 in the last survey. Union leaders attributed this to more security officers joining the industry since Covid-19 struck.

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abuse security officer Covid-19 coronavirus

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