SINGAPORE — A security manpower firm that admitted to overworking four of its security officers due to a lack of staff was fined $34,000 on Tuesday (19 October).
Peregrine Security had made its officers, who were deployed to different worksites, work back to back shifts of up to 20 hours a day, with only a few hours break in between.
A representative from the company earlier pleaded guilty to four charges of overworking two of its security officers between September and October last year. These involve making the two workers work more than 12 hours each day for 33 days and 44 days.
Three charges of the same nature involving two other security officers were taken into consideration for sentencing. These officers were made to work more than 12 hours per day for 27 days and two days.
Under the Employment Act, a company is not permitted to make its employees work for more than 12 hours in a day, except in exceptional circumstances. Such circumstances include working in the event of an accident, work essential for defence or security or for the life of the community, or urgent works to machinery or plants.
The provision applies to employees not working as workmen or in a managerial or executive position, who receive a salary of not more than $2,600 a month.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) was alerted to the offences through a complaint on 23 September last year.
Senior prosecuting officer Justine Loh had sought a fine of $35,000 for the firm, stressing that Peregrine did not take heed even though it had been issued another composition of $8,000 just six months earlier - on 2 March last year - for 16 similar breaches.
Loh also noted that the film had committed extensive breaches over a short two-month period.
The lawyer representing Peregrine Security, Roslina Baba, said that last year had been the most difficult in the firm's 16-year history. The firm had to overcome multiple challenges, including complying with legislation and limits on foreign nationals entering the country, resulting in a manpower crunch.
Roslina said about 145 of some 300 security officers had resigned, with 40 of them citing the increasing risk of contracting COVID-19 as a reason.
Peregrine Security accepted that a lack of manpower was not an excuse to make the officers work over the limit. The officers were not forced to work beyond the limit but had agreed to do extra work and were paid the overtime rate, stated the lawyer.
Due to the court case, the senior management of Peregrine has since implemented an electronic system to ensure that employees do not go beyond the prescribed limit of hours. This was initiated even before the MOM began its investigations, the lawyer added.
For its breach of the Employment Act, the firm could have been fined up to $5,000 on each charge. As the charge is amalgamated, it could have faced up to twice the maximum punishment.
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