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The court heard that some security guards worked 20-hour shifts several days in a row. — TODAY pic
The court heard that some security guards worked 20-hour shifts several days in a row. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Sept 30 — A security firm admitted in court today that it violated employment laws by getting four of its employees to work for more than 12 hours a day on multiple occasions last year.

A representative of Peregrine Security pleaded guilty on the company’s behalf to four charges under the Employment Act, which mandates that shift workers should not work more than 12 hours with some exceptions.

Three other similar charges will be taken into consideration for sentencing on Oct 19.

TODAY first reported last month that Peregrine Security had been charged along with another firm, Sovereign Security Services. The latter’s case is still pending.

Many security officers are required to work up to 12 hours a day for six days a week to meet market demand.

Ms Justine Loh, senior prosecuting officer from the Ministry of Manpower, told the court today that excessive work hours in Peregrine Security’s case “occurred almost on a day-to-day basis”.

There were occasions when the security officers “worked for 20 hours per day for several days at a stretch”, Ms Loh added.

Their employer had asked them to work back-to-back shifts lasting 13 to 20 hours per day because of insufficient manpower. This meant that they were occasionally given merely four hours of rest in between the shifts.

According to court documents, one security officer worked for more than 12 hours a day for 33 days between Sept 2 and Oct 25 last year. Another did so for 44 days around that period.

The third officer worked such hours for 27 days, and the fourth did so for two days.

Under the Employment Act, shift workers should not work for more than 12 hours a day with the only exceptions being:

■ Accidents

■ When work is essential to the life of the community or essential for defence or security

■ When it is urgent work to be done to machinery or a plant or an interruption of work that was impossible to foresee

However, the court heard that Peregrine Security did not fall under any of the exceptions.

An MOM inspecting officer began investigating the company on Sept 23 last year after receiving a complaint. No further details were given on who lodged the complaint.

Today, Ms Loh argued that legislation is in place to protect the welfare of such vulnerable workers “who may not earn very much per month”.

The prosecutor said: “These are basic labour rights to have enough rest and not be overworked These workers generally do not earn very much and do not have very high bargaining power. It’s imperative that they are protected.”

She also noted that such offences are difficult to detect, and sought to submit records of a composition fine that Peregrine Security previously paid last year.

However, District Judge Janet Wang adjourned the case for Ms Low to get more details from the investigation officer. The judge noted that the firm’s previous offences went back to 2015, but she did not reveal more.

Firms that are convicted can be fined up to S$5,000 for each charge. — TODAY

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