The Big Read, Security Guards, Ramesh Erramalli, Security Officers

The Big Read, Security Guards

The Big Read: From rude residents to ‘unfair fines', condo security guards have a lot to put up with

The Big Read: From rude residents to ‘unfair fines', condo security guards have a lot to put up with

11.11.2019

The Big Read : From rude residents to ‘unfair fines', condo security guards have a lot to put up with

Beyond the day-to-day challenges which condo security guards face, there are underlying problems that often leave security guards getting the ...

He needs to have his mobile phone with him at all times and make sure that he responds, within five minutes, to messages from the condo management in a WhatsApp group chat.

He also has to make sure that cars in the condo are parked within the designated line markings, and “not on or over the lines”.

“With only four of us working that shift, we were also busy with our own duties,” he said.

“We did not clamp the car and the management spotted it before us,” said Eric.

Last month, his firm was penalised six times and made to pay S$300 to the condo management.

Beyond the day-to-day challenges which condo security guards face, there are underlying issues that often leave them getting the short end of the stick. (Photo: TODAY/Raj Nadarajan)

It added: “In many instances, security agencies often have to contend with liquidated damages should their officers not carry out actions against illegal parking or other rules like screening of visitors or even where visitors dropped off. Putting out a contract at a certain fee, and then imposing liquidated damages to claw back some of the contract sums do not seem fair.”

“Liquidated damages should be imposed if there are actual losses suffered. It should not be used as a form of financial punishment or worse, to get ‘discounts’ off the security agency in a roundabout way,” he said.

“A typical unfair clause is one which gives managing agents absolute discretion to dictate officer’s actions or tasks, and which has been used to get security officers to do all sorts of non security-related tasks like electrical work, putting up signage and notices - which is typically in fact the managing agent’s job - or checking water meter readings,” he said.

in Whampoa verbally abusing a security guard, went viral late last month.

Our interviews with condo security guards found that they are often treated with little respect all round - not just in their day-to-day interaction with residents but also in terms of how they are expected to carry out their work, with the condo management policing their behaviours with fines.

Under the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act, management corporations - which comprise all unit owners within the development - are given the powers to manage their own estates. A management corporation is also known as Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST).

On his job scope, Eric said that his tasks range from registering visitors to the condo, ensuring that residents wear proper swimming attire in the pool to keeping the premises safe.

READ: Man in viral video apologises 'many times' to condo security supervisor in private meeting

Recounting the incident, Leonard said: “We stopped a visitor from entering the condo because she did not register her details. But on her next three visits, she did not register as well so we had to inform the tenant whom she visited … She came with her husband the next day and he scolded us.

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SMS Investigation and Security director John Sng noted that security officers are “sandwiched” and are made messengers of bad news.

He cited an incident where a resident who was upset with the going-ons at a condo parked his car in front of the car park gantry and refused to move.

He said: “These members of the public believe they can get away with it because security officers do not have the special protections despite being in a vulnerable front-facing position. Often incidents of abuse or harassment of security officers do not go punished as they do not get support from the building owners or MCSTs or managing agents.”

“But when they clamp a car and the owner asks, who did this, the security either gets praised or pulled off.”

“I did it about three years ago and got the idea from an Australian security association. They said that this was used as a deterrence. I tell my officers, if they are (facing) a conflict situation, to tell the parties involved that they are being recorded,” he said.

(stopabuse@hormatsecurity.com) for private security officers to report cases of verbal and physical abuse which they encounter while performing their duties. Assistance provided could range from legal advice to medical claims or requests to change deployment site.

In response to queries, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that the harassment of anyone, including security officers, is “unacceptable” and an offence under the Protection of Harassment Act. Where there is violence or disorderly behaviour involved, victims are also protected under other legislation such as the Penal Code or the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, the ministry said.

These include the issue of liquidated damages, which refer to a fixed or determined sum of money agreed by the parties to a contract to be payable should there be a breach by any party.

But he noted that a security guard could miss a checkpoint due to carelessness, and it does not necessarily mean that the guard did not do his rounds.

SAS’ Mr Ikhsan cited a case of a condo in Bukit Panjang, which required its security guards to conduct patrol of its premises with more than 20 checkpoints - over half of which were outdoors. Liquidated damages of S$50 were imposed for each checkpoint missed, even on the occasions when it was raining, he said.

Mr Ikhsan reiterated that managing agents are not well versed in contracting practices and do not have a strong grasp of how liquidated damages work.

Faced with an array of issues, it is no surprise that the industry is facing a manpower crunch. Nevertheless, following various initiatives to increase the appeal of the job, the situation has improved slightly in recent years.

The higher basic pay and subsequent annual increments were aimed at offsetting the cap on overtime hours. Security agencies had to adopt the recommendations from the start of this year.

Despite the overall uptick, the industry still needs more bodies. Mr Wiener estimates that the industry may be facing a shortfall of about 12,000 workers. The use of technology will help to reduce the reliance on manpower and alleviate the manpower crunch over the next five years, he said.

Referring to the removal of the overtime exemption, she said that this would create “even greater pressures on the supply of manpower”.

At the same time, security we spoke to highlighted the value of older and more experienced security guards.

“When contracts start by stipulating the outcome and not merely specifying a certain number of security officers, security agencies are free to think of how technology can be used to augment manpower, and start providing integrated security solutions,” she said.

Mr Chin said that security service buyers will need time to get onboard but the Government’s move will send a strong signal.

Outcome-based contracts may also see buyers incurring “more costs in the short term for security consultation and also upfront capital expenditure on buying the tech equipment and solutions”, he added.

“If they want five security guards, they mean five. Even though we may propose that we are giving you three but some tech (solutions) to cover other grounds, they are a bit hesitant - they would rather have five guards than three,” he said.

Mr Chan is also president of the Association of Strata Managers, which seeks to represent managing agents for condos in Singapore. He said that outcome-based contracts have not caught on because of the long period of commitment required from the buyers, due to the installation of equipment and technology.

“It is not uncommon for the outcomes in an outcome-based contract, however well articulated, to be interpreted differently by different persons. As such, problems can arise from the measurement of outcomes and/or ‘fair’ administration of the contract,” said the spokesperson.

He added that security agencies have to adequately prepare and train their officers, in order to push buyers to make the switch.

Read more: CNA

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