May Day awards for these veterans

Security firm GM an NTUC supporter

Mr Robert Wiener may be a 30-year veteran of the security scene, but he admits that the small things still make him bristle.

His pet peeve: people who disrespect security guards. "These guys are there to protect you, right? So they should be treated with more respect," he said.

But it is Mr Wiener's ability to see the big picture, and work with the Government to make life better for security guards that has secured him a national honour.

Tomorrow, the 59-year-old president of the Association of Certified Security Agencies will receive a Medal of Commendation from NTUC for his "outstanding contributions" in making a "positive impact in the industry".

As general manager of security firm Aexis Security Management and president of the association, which represents over 110 security firms, he has supported NTUC job creation and best outsourcing programmes. This is in contrast to the other group representing such firms here - the Security Association of Singapore (SAS), which has about 140 members.

Last September, the SAS objected openly to NTUC's move to implement a wage ladder for the sector - so low-wage workers can earn higher pay through training. The SAS was worried about overheads and the timing of the move.

This triggered a public spat with the NTUC and drew a sharp rebuke from labour chief Lim Swee Say, who warned the association that it would never be allowed to slow NTUC down. The SAS has since backed down and said it will follow NTUC's move.

Mr Wiener, who would not comment on the rival association, said only that it was more fruitful to work with, rather than against, the union. "I don't believe that unions are our enemies. I believe that we should try and work together to make the pie bigger and better for the security officers on the ground," he said.

On the issue of higher salaries for security officers, he cautioned against rushing to do so. The wage ladder should be implemented only in 2016 and 2017, said Mr Wiener, after those who pay for security services have been educated and are ready to fork out more, so that guards can enjoy higher pay. The Manpower Ministry has said that a compulsory wage ladder for security guards will be implemented, but the date has not been fixed.

As for the award, it came as a surprise. "I honestly don't think that I have done a huge amount, but I have worked hard," said Mr Wiener, who is married with three grown-up children.

Cabby who fights for comrades

If there was a competition for Singapore's top taxi driver, Mr Gerald Chan would be a top pick.

The 64-year-old has been plying the roads for 30 years, and has yet to receive a single complaint.

He is also president of the 17,000-strong National Taxi Association. But that does not win him any perks. "I still have to drive to cover the daily taxi rental," he pointed out.

The soft-spoken man rents a Hyundai i40 taxi from ComfortDelGro and drives it Monday to Fridays as a day shift driver, sharing his cab with relief drivers at night and on weekends.

Besides plying the roads, he also volunteers at the taxi association and NTUC at least twice a week, helping cabbies write appeals for traffic fines or attending meetings to discuss policies that affect cab drivers, for instance.

This despite the effect on his bottom line. "There is a direct cost for us self-employed when we volunteer, because we can earn about $20 each hour when we drive," said Mr Chan.

"For every meeting we attend or each time we volunteer, we have to work harder and drive longer to cover rentals."

But, he admits, there are fewer financial pressures now.

His wife is retired and his Simei flat is fully paid for.

"I used to earn up to $3,000 a month when I was younger, but now I have to slow down because I am older."

At the May Day dinner tomorrow, the veteran cabby will be receiving the Comrade of Labour award for his years of volunteering at the taxi association.

In a written citation, NTUC praised Mr Chan for speaking up for taxi drivers and volunteering at the taxi association since 1997.

Although he has slowed down in taxi driving, he does not plan to cut down on his volunteer work.

One of his goals, for instance, is to introduce a new defensive driving course for taxi drivers.

This article was published on April 28 in The Straits Times.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.