By: Ravi Philemon
NTUC assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari said in a blog post that ground feedback showed “many security supervisors are unwilling to attend skills upgrading courses”, and that the 3,300 security supervisors face a “serious risk” of being demoted if they do not attend a compulsory course within the next three months.
Mr Zainal’s comments suggests that he is completely out of touch with the workers that he is trying to help.
Security Supervisors work some of the longest hours in Singapore. A security supervisor typically work 6 days a week on 12 hour shifts just to earn a minimum salary of $1500.
Security Supervisors typically clock up to approximately 95 overtime hours each month to supplement their income.
This is the latest advertisement by Apro, a leading security firm in Singapore, for Security Supervisors (link:
1You can clearly see from the advertisement above that the long working hours and relatively low pay for the number of hours that Security Supervisors put in, is not an exaggeration.
This is my question to Mr Zainal: “With this being the reality, how does the NTUC’s assistant secretary-general expect Security Supervisors to find time to attend some of the upgrading courses?”
No doubt that the Singapore Workforce Development Agency has introduced flexible training delivery such as weekend classes, bite-size modules and on-site training, but Security Supervisors will have to commit to 22 and 34 hours to complete one module. And to upgrade under the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications framework, they would have to complete at least two other such modules.
So that is a total of at least 66 to 102 hours of course-hours, on top of the 6-day work week of 12 hour shifts, plus 95 overtime hours. I am not sure if an overly undue expectation is placed on our Security Supervisors. And all these just so that they could earn a few hundred dollars more every month.
Instead of threatening such workers that they face the risk of demotion if they don’t upskill within 3 months (which will most likely result in a reduction of salaries), Mr Zainal should have gotten to the ground to understand the real reason why such a large number of security officers are not upgrading their skills.
I do agree with Mr Zainal that there is a need to inject better professionalism into the security industry, but I don’t think threatening the Security Supervisors is the way to do it. I think NTUC should look at the security industry in other major cities like New York City, London, Paris and Sydney to better understand how they motivate their security professionals to stay relevant, and if the effort the officers put into professional upgrading is tied to wages and working hours.
Just as an example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the mean hourly wage for a security guard in May 2014 was US$13.48, and the mean annual wage was US$28,040 (, and that is for working 40-hours per week.
Considering that NTUC Learning Hub is a lead training provider for officers in the security industry, I also wonder if there is any conflict of interest in Mr Zainal’s warning to Security Supervisors to upgrade their skills.