Egregious, unethical, and indespicable. These are the words fitting of what a local security agency has done to game the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), lower their operating cost, all at the expense of the livelihoods of their workers.
The PWM was first mooted by National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) to ensure that our workers, especially those earning lower wages, enjoyed the fruits of Singapore’s economic growth. Back in 2014, the PWM was introduced to the outsourced private security sector and subsequently implemented from 2016. Based on the recommendations by the PWM, the basic wages for security officers before overtime (OT) was licensed at $1,100 in 2016 and today, it is at $1,650, an increase of 50 per cent over seven years.
However, late last year, the Union of Security Employees (USE) got news of the errant practices by a local security agency that made multiple attempts to shortchange their workers, showing blatant disregard for their welfare. This security agency, which hires more than 1,000 officers, had demoted some 300 officers as it no longer had the contracts to keep these officers at their current employed job ranks. This forced demotion, in fact, is an attempt to reset the wages of the security officers.
While USE took immediate action by engaging the agency, malpractices of the security agency did not cease. While the agency agreed not to demote these officers, they instead, extended their working hours, making the security officers work significantly longer hours to enjoy the PWM wages. This is yet again, another attempt to reset the employment terms of these officers.
Due to the unfairness of this unilateral action, USE has taken the case up to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for conciliation. The agency had agreed to the union and MOM’s request to conduct joint engagements with affected workers to establish remedial actions. In a statement, NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng opined that “This is against the spirit of the PWM and is not right and cannot be condoned.” He also reassured the public that “NTUC and USE will keep a very close watch on this case, and we will do our best to ensure that our security officers are protected.”
At the heart of the PWM is to help uplift lower-wage workers’ wages and protect them against external factors such as inflation and rising costs to provide our workers with a sense of financial security. Hence, companies should not just focus on the model’s technical aspects but on its spirit, so that these essential yet vulnerable groups of workers can be uplifted. Through this, income inequality, which has always been an issue, can be minimized, allowing our workforce to progress together and leaving no one behind.