Security firm fined $34k for making staff work 20-hour days

A security company did not protect the welfare of its staff, making four of its officers work more than 12 hours a day. Yesterday, the company, Peregrine Security, was fined $34,000.

One of its officers worked round the clock for nine consecutive days between Oct 18 and Oct 26 last year. This entailed 20-hour workdays with four hours of break.

Peregrine, which posted its officers at locations including HomeTeamNS Khatib, Keppel Shipyard and 888 Plaza in Woodlands, earlier pleaded guilty to four amalgamated charges under the Employment Act.

This means that each charge covered multiple incidents of the offence that was committed.

The offences occurred between September and October last year, when two officers clocked multiple 20-hour workdays.

Defence counsel for Peregrine, Ms Roslina Baba, argued that the company was short of staff at the time, since about 145 of some 300 officers had resigned owing to concerns over Covid-19 and border restrictions imposed amid the pandemic.

The company has since implemented an electronic logging system to ensure such breaches are not repeated.

However, senior prosecuting officer from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Justine Loh urged the court to impose a $35,000 fine, calling the implementation of the new system "too little, too late".

Ms Roslina had argued that it was a supervisor who instructed the officers to work the long hours and that the senior executives were not aware of these practices.

However, the prosecution pointed out that some of the offences continued even after the supervisor stopped working on Oct 4 last year.

The court earlier heard that an inspecting officer from MOM carried out investigations at Peregrine for possible breaches on Sept 23 last year.

In delivering the sentence, District Judge Janet Wang said that while there was no concrete evidence of actual harm to the workers, the risk of potential health hazards to the officers when working long hours cannot be ruled out.

"It is not sufficient to have in place a state-of-the-art electronic system when the basic (measures) of monitoring and supervision are severely lacking," added the judge.